Venus Williams loses first match since Australian Open final


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.