Sick Venus and jet-lagged Radwanska crash in upsets
FOUR-TIME gold medallist Venus Williams, suffering with a virus, slumped to her first-ever opening-round loss at an Olympic Games on Saturday, joining jet-lagged Agnieszka Radwanska at the exit door.
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 centre-court 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 she was coughing up a lot, you could see she was really struggling," said United States captain Mary Jo Fernandez, who faced the media in Williams' place.
Williams faced a battle to be fit for Sunday's opening doubles with Serena.
Fourth seeded Radwanska was also a 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 Wednesday 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 14,000km.
"I spent three days in an airport, so that was not the best preparation.
"I could have used more practice," said former Wimbledon runner-up Radwanska.