ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Venus Williams lost her first match since the Australian Open in just 55 minutes as she was beaten 6-3, 6-1 by Kristina Mladenovic on Thursday in the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy.
Seeded fourth, Williams showed none of the spark which took her to Saturday’s Australian Open final, failing to record a single winner in the opening set compared to 15 for her French opponent.
Mladenovic broke the tired-looking Williams in the first game of the second set and swiftly wrapped up the second round win. She received a bye in the first round.
In the quarterfinals, Mladenovic meets defending St. Petersburg champion Roberta Vinci, who advanced earlier Thursday by beating Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-4. The sixth-seeded Italian was broken twice in the first set.
Also Thursday, fifth-seeded Russian Elena Vesnina progressed to the quarterfinals with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Alize Cornet. Vesnina will next face either second-seeded Dominika Cibulkova or Donna Vekic.
BARCELONA, Spain — World No. 1 Andy Murray lost to Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the Barcelona Open semifinals on Saturday.
Murray’s defeat came a week after he exited the third round at Monte Carlo. That loss prompted Murray to enter Barcelona to whip up some form for the French Open following a right elbow injury.
Nine-time winner Rafael Nadal played Horacio Zeballaos of Argentina in the other semifinal later Saturday.
Thiem started strong, breaking Murray’s first two service games before adding a third break en route to taking the first set.
The ninth-ranked Thiem had a break point in the second set, but Murray held serve and broke him back to even the match at a set apiece.
Murray was again in trouble at 4-2 down in the decisive set, and folded when he failed to successfully return Thiem’s deep lob on match point.
It was Thiem’s first win in three meetings against Murray.
STUTTGART, Germany — Maria Sharapova’s first tournament since her controversial return to tennis is over after losing to Kristina Mladenovic of France in the Porsche Grand Prix semifinals.
Mladenovic beat former top-ranked Sharapova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 Saturday.
In her fourth match following a 15-month doping ban, the Russian was left to rue missing 13 of her 16 break-point opportunities as Mladenovic rallied to win in 2 hours, 38 minutes.
The 19th-ranked Mladenovic, who ousted two-time defending champion Angelique Kerber on Thursday, next plays the winner of the other semifinal between fourth-seeded Simona Halep and last year’s runner-up Laura Siegemund.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who tested positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open, had been given a wild card to enter the Stuttgart event after losing her ranking because of the ban.