MELBOURNE, Australia - Venus Williams squandered a match point before losing to 46th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro on Thursday, the biggest upset so far at the Australian Open.
The 20-year-old Spaniard, who reached the French Open quarterfinals last year as a qualifier in her first Grand Slam, rallied to beat Williams 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
'She was super consistent and aggressive and just went for her shots,' said Williams, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion who now can only hope for a doubles crown here with sister Serena. 'Probably one of her best matches she's ever played.'
Usually the aggressor with her powerful shots, the sixth-seeded Williams was sluggish as she was broken while serving for the match and dropped the last five games with the crowd cheering loudly for Suarez Navarro to finish off the victory.
'I wasn't in control of the points,' Williams said. 'I'm definitely used to dictating the points a little bit more. It was kind of a pattern that wasn't the best for me.'
Serena Williams also struggled and headed to the practice courts after a 6-3, 7-5 win over Argentina's Gisela Dulko, ranked 45th. Serena Williams gave her performance a 'D-minus at best.'
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal got high marks for a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Croatia's Roko Karanusic, and has dropped only 11 games in six sets in Melbourne. Nadal advanced to face Germany's Tommy Haas, who beat Flavio Cipolla of Italy.
Nadal's potential semifinal opponent, fourth-ranked Andy Murray, wasn't seriously challenged in his first real test, ousting 51st-ranked Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour, 50 minutes.
That came after Murray only had to be on court 45 minutes in Tuesday's stifling heat before Andrei Pavel retired with a back injury.
With Scottish flags and tartan hats scattered around Rod Laver Arena on a cool Thursday night, Murray had 37 winners to 18 for Granollers.
'All the work I did is paying off,' said Murray, runner-up at the U.S. Open last year. 'This is probably the best I've felt coming into a Grand Slam.'
Suarez Navarro, overmatched at first, broke twice in the second set as the 28-year-old Williams let a number of reachable shots fly past. She saved a match point while serving at 4-5 in the deciding set and broke in the next game, aided by Williams's double-fault.
Williams netted a forehand on match point in the next game for her 37th unforced error, and Suarez Navarro said she had little choice but to turn up the pressure.
'You must be aggressive during all the match,' she said. 'If not, she's going to take control of you.'
Serena Williams said her victory left 'lots and lots and lots of room for improvement,' but she was happy to get through without her best form.
The younger Williams sister looked to be headed to a quick victory - by the time Dulko hit her first winner, she already was down 3-0.
But the Argentine soon was matching the powerful Williams shot for shot. She saved triple set point while serving at 2-5, but Williams finished it off the next game with a pair of aces.
In the second set, Dulko - who said she wasn't sure she'd be able to play after running a high fever following a doubles match Wednesday - served at 5-3 and held six set points in a game that went to deuce 12 times. But her veteran opponent, accustomed to the pressure of Grand Slams, finally converted the seventh break point.
'She started playing unbelievable, hitting winners left and right,' Williams said. 'She had a couple of opportunities, but I always felt I wasn't going to lose.'