Out... In round 1 for Venus
Four-time gold medallist Venus crashes out, so does Radwanska
Four-time gold medallist Venus Williams, down with a virus, slumped to her first opening-round loss at an Olympic Games yesterday morning (Singapore time), joining jet-lagged Agnieszka Radwanska at the exit.
American fifth seed Williams, the singles champion in 2000 and, at 36, the oldest woman in the draw, lost to Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) in a three-hour marathon.
Williams, who has also captured three doubles golds with sister Serena, had her opportunities, leading 3-1 in the second set and 4-1 in the decider.
But, despite the encouragement of watching US Secretary of State John Kerry, she ran out of steam at the crucial moments, noisily coughing throughout the closing exchanges.
"She had been ill for a few days with a bad virus. She had an upset stomach and was coughing up a lot, you could see she was really struggling," said US captain Mary Jo Fernandez, who faced the media in Williams' place.
Williams now faces a battle to be fit for the opening doubles with Serena.
"Fingers crossed, she'll be OK. I would be highly surprised if she didn't play. It's been her goal to play in her fifth Olympics and she wants to win a medal so badly," said Fernandez.
Flipkens was just two points away from defeat in the ninth game of the decider and rated her win as "in the top two" of her career, after her victory over Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon in 2013.
"To beat Venus, one of the biggest champions, gives me goosebumps," said the 30-year-old, playing in her first Olympics.
Fourth seed Radwanska was another high-profile casualty, slumping to a 6-4, 7-5 loss against China's world No. 63 Zheng Saisai.
The Pole arrived in Rio only on Thursday (Singapore time) after having to fly from Montreal, where she competed last week, to New York to Lisbon and then to Rio.
In all, she was on the move for 55 hours and covered around 14,000 kilometres.
"I spent three days in an airport so that was not the best preparation. I could have done with more practice," said former Wimbledon runner-up Radwanska.
Zheng's win was the second big victory of the day for China after national No. 1 Zhang Shuai saved three match-points to beat Swiss 12th seed Timea Bacsinszky, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 7-6 (9/7).
But there was little drama in the men's singles.
Japanese fourth seed Kei Nishikori, a quarter-finalist in London in 2012, breezed past Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 6-2, 6-4.
Nishikori next plays Australia's John Millman, who became the first player to clinch a "double bagel" - 6-0, 6-0 - in Games history.
The 27-year-old Millman swept past Ricardas Berankis in just 50 minutes, making it a miserable summer for the Lithuanian.
At Wimbledon, Berankis was knocked out in the first round by Britain's world No. 772 Marcus Willis, a club professional.
Meanwhile, 43-year-old Leander Paes' seventh Olympics ended quickly when he and Indian partner Rohan Bopanna lost 6-4, 7-6 (8/6) to Lukas Kubot and Marcin Matkowski of Poland. - AFP.