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(See TENN <GO> for Australian Open coverage.)
Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Five-time champion Serena Williams was beaten in the fourth round of the Australian Open by 56th- ranked Ekaterina Makarova, ending her 17-match winning run at the season-opening tennis Grand Slam.
Williams, the No. 12 seed from the U.S., lost 6-2, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena to the 23-year-old Russian left-hander, the lowest-ranked female player to have reached the round of 16 at this year’s tournament.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Makarova said in a televised court-side interview after advancing to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. “She’s an unbelievable player. It’s really tough to play against her so I’m really happy I finished it.”
The 30-year-old Williams, the winner of 13-time major singles titles, last failed to reach the final eight at Melbourne Park in 2006, when she lost in the third round. She won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 before missing last year’s event because of injury.
Williams lost her service five times against Makarova and had seven double faults, including four in the fifth game of the second set. She also made 37 unforced errors in the 82-minute match.
“I can’t describe how I served to be honest,” Williams said in a news conference. “It wasn’t good. It was a disaster really. I served horrendous.”
Makarova will next play fellow Russian Maria Sharapova, the No. 4 seed, or 14th-seeded German Sabine Lisicki. Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes on local wild-card entry Lleyton Hewitt in the other night match at Rod Laver Arena.
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and men’s No. 4 seed Andy Murray earlier advanced, while No. 24 Kei Nishikori of Japan upset sixth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five sets.
Kvitova opened the day eight program of fourth-round matches by beating Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 7-6 (7-2). Murray followed her onto Rod Laver Arena and was leading Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1, 1-0 when his Kazakh opponent retired with a hip injury.
Kvitova, the No. 2 seed from the Czech Republic, struck more than twice as many winners as Ivanovic and held off a second-set fightback from the 21st-seeded Serbian to secure her first victory in their four career meetings.
She’ll next face unseeded Italian Sara Errani, who ousted Zheng Jie of China 6-2, 6-1 to extend her best ever performance at one of the four tennis majors.
Murray, the runner-up at Melbourne Park the past two years, won the opening two sets against Kukushkin in 44 minutes and took the first game of the third before his opponent quit because of a left hip-flexor muscle injury.
“It’s good that I got to conserve some energy,” said the Briton, who will face Nishikori in the quarterfinals.
Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the last eight at the Australian Open in 80 years after battling past Tsonga 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
The last time a Japanese man reached the quarterfinals of any Grand Slam tournament was in 1995, when Shuzo Matsuoka got to the last eight at Wimbledon.
“Hopefully it’s big in Japan,” Nishikori said in a televised court-side interview. “A lot of people messaged me a couple of days ago when I got to the round of 16. Now it’s the quarterfinal so I’m really excited.”
--Editors: Malcolm Scott, Brendan Murray
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