MELBOURNE, Australia — Just as she was starting to show glimpses of returning to form,
Makarova, seeded 22nd, upset
Williams had chances in the second set too, missing a break-point opportunity to go up 4-2, and then serving three consecutive double-faults after leading the ninth game 40-30 to surrender a crucial break.
The 33-year-old Williams, the second-oldest player in the tournament and seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, took some time out after the second set to change her zebra-striped dress and came back strongly, taking a 3-0 lead. But Makarova rallied again and Williams' error count rose — she had 21 of her 56 unforced errors in the deciding set.
She has struggled with injuries and illness in recent seasons but reached the final of the WTA event at Auckland, New Zealand, to open the year and said after arriving at Melbourne Park that she was feeling better than she had in years.
"The last 12 months I have had issues," Williams said, "but this year I definitely am looking forward to having a good run and feeling well."
That didn't happen Monday.
"My level was a little bit too up and down. Obviously, my error count was a little high," Williams said. "I have to give her a lot of credit, though; she was very determined, played hard."
It was only the second time in 14 appearances that Williams lost in the first round at the Australian Open, in which her best run remains a loss to her sister in the 2003 final.
"It was a really tough match to play someone like Venus in the first round; she is such a great player," Makarova said. "At 3-0 down [in the final set], I decided I had to fight for every point. I just kept fighting and I turned around the match."
Makarova will meet another American in the second round after qualifier Irina Falconi beat
Li, who lost finals to
"This is my favorite Grand Slam," Li said. "Always looking forward to come back to Melbourne."
Wawrinka, who lost, 12-10, in the fifth set to eventual champion
Wawrinka won the Chennai Open in India to start 2014 and is one of the big threats on the bottom half of the draw that includes three-time defending champion Djokovic and No. 3
Other men advancing included No. 14