Venus, Martina bounced out of tournament

Friday, June 25, 2004

The Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- With all her injuries and mediocre play of late, the last thing Venus Williams needed was for her opponent to be awarded an extra point.

That's precisely what happened Thursday in the second round at Wimbledon, and Williams lost to Karolina Sprem 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), the 2000-01 champion's earliest exit at the All England Club since 1997.

In a stunning officiating error at tennis' most hallowed ground, chair umpire Ted Watts awarded the 30th-ranked Sprem a point she didn't earn in the final tiebreaker.

And no one spoke up: not Williams, not Sprem, not the other on-court officials.

"I'd like to think he didn't do it on purpose," said Williams, who hasn't been past the quarterfinals at a major since losing to younger sister Serena in a second straight Wimbledon final last year. "I don't think one call makes a match. I had some opportunities there, and it's unfortunate, but I'll learn from it."

Even after the scoring mistake made it 2-2 in the final tiebreaker, Williams built a 6-3 edge -- then lost five straight points, mostly on miscues. She wasted two set points in the opening tiebreaker.

"Unfortunately, the way it happened, Venus didn't query it at the time," tournament referee Alan Mills said. "They played point after point afterward, and the result, I'm afraid, stands as is."

Sprem, a 19-year-old Croatian, had lost four straight Grand Slam matches before this week.

Martina Navratilova's Wimbledon singles return ended with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss to Gisela Dulko, who beat her last month at the French Open.

Goran Ivanisevic rallied to defeat Filippo Volandri 4-6, 7-6 (8), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

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