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Venus Williams loses to China's Li Na

August 14, 2008 |  9:26 am

Li Na soaks up the support of the crowd in Beijing after Venus Williams in Olympic singles. BEIJING -- Wimbledon champion Venus Williams took on Li Na of China and 10,000 of her closest friends on center court of the Olympic tennis tournament here Thursday night.

And Williams lost.

With a packed house of 10,000 hanging on every shot, Li won a tight match against a higher-ranked opponent, 7-5, 7-5, and sent the understandably partisan Chinese crowd into a frenzy.

The prospect of a Williams-Williams final, a repeat of the Wimbledon final, had gone out the window about an hour earlier, when Venus' sister, Serena, was ousted by Russian Elena Dementieva in three sets. Then, the prospect of a U.S. female getting a medal -- which had looked very good just a few hours earlier as the round began following a nearly four-hour rain delay -- ended when Venus Williams' forehand return of Li's serve settled into the net on match point.

"I am so excited," Li said. "She is the best player in the world, from Wimbledon."

But even the best player in the world, if that is the case, would have had trouble handling the atmosphere in a home arena against a Chinese player.

Williams headed off to play doubles with Serena and was unavailable for comment in the mixed zone, where players are asked to stop to do interviews.

The Williams sisters won the gold medal in doubles in 2000 in Sydney.

-- Bill Dwyre

Photo: Li Na soaks up the support of the crowd in Beijing after defeating Venus Williams in Olympic singles. Credit: Elise Amendola / Associated Press