Doubles streak ends for Williams sisters

SYDNEY, Australia – The 22-match winning streak in doubles by Venus and Serena Williams ended Tuesday with a riveting three-set loss to Martina Hingis and Monica Seles.

The Williams sisters squandered four match points in losing 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2) in the first round of the Adidas International, a tuneup for the Australian Open.

Hingis and Seles, in their first match as partners, beat the Olympic and Wimbledon doubles champions. Hingis split with longtime partner Anna Kournikova after their Chase Championship title in November.

The showcase match featured four of the world’s top six women in singles.

“Four players like that together on the court, we have all won Grand Slams, are all in the top 10 … it was so exciting,” Hingis said.

Monica and I had nothing to lose because we never played together before, so we were just going out to do our best and have fun,'' she added.To take away a win in a match like that is great.”

In singles, Serena Williams will play Brie Rippner in the second round and most likely face Hingis in the quarterfinals. Venus Williams is not playing singles but will be a practice partner for her sister.

In the second round Tuesday, Seles, seeded No. 3, defeated Nicole Pratt 6-4, 6-2, and No. 4 Conchita Martinez downed Alicia Molik 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3. In the first round, No. 6 Kournikova topped Elena Bovina 6-4, 6-4, and defending champ Amelie Mauresmo stopped Anne Kremer 6-1, 6-4.

Among the men, top-seeded Magnus Norman beat Andrei Pavel 6-3, 7-5 in the first round. Also advancing were No. 2 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 5 Arnaud Clement and No. 7 Tommy Haas. No. 3 Wayne Ferreira lost to Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4, and No. 4 Cedric Pioline was beaten by Jonas Bjorkman

The winning streak for the Williams sisters started at the 1999 U.S. Open. They took the loss with nonchalance and shrugs.

I was a little bit shaky sometimes,'' Venus said.It’s been tough coming back here because the Olympics, it was so exciting.”

Venus Williams won the Olympic gold medal in singles last year as well as the U.S. Open and Wimbledon singles. This was her first match since October.

Sometimes it's better to lose,'' she said.We’re confident we’ll do a lot better.”

Hingis and Seles captured the first set 6-4. The Williams sisters evened the score in the second set, breaking Hingis to lead 5-3 before Serena held serve to take the set.

The third set swung wildly, with Hingis and Seles grabbing a 5-3 lead and Seles serving for the match before the Williams regained control with successive breaks.

Venus had her first match point at 6-5 and 40-30 before Hingis drilled a cross-court forehand for deuce. Venus had the advantage point another three times but couldn’t close the match.

Hingis and Seles tied it with their second break point to force the tiebreaker. They won five consecutive points to capture the match.

Serena, the 1999 U.S. Open champion, said it was good for her and her sister to get this loss out of the way.

“We’re going to start again in Melbourne … and by the French we should we should be back on a roll,” she said.