Venus Williams loses at Indian Wells in her first match since the US Open. Naomi Osaka advances

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Venus Williams played a match on tour for the first time in about six months on Thursday, and the 43-year-old owner of seven Grand Slam titles gave away the lead and the last 10 games in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 loss to qualifier Nao Hibino at the BNP Paribas Open.

Williams hadn’t competed anywhere since a first-round exit at the U.S. Open on Aug. 29. That 6-1, 6-1 defeat against Greet Minnen was the American’s most lopsided loss in 100 career matches at the major tournament she won in 2000 and 2001.

When Thursday’s defeat ended with Williams getting broken for the seventh time in 12 service games, she walked to the net to congratulate Hibino, then left the court with a smile and a wave as much of the sparse crowd stood to applaud.

Williams, once ranked No. 1 and now outside the top 450, won her most recent Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2008 and has played sparingly in recent years, in part because of injuries. Her most recent appearance at Indian Wells came in 2019.

She still can offer stinging serves and big backhands, but her performance this time was filled with mistakes, including 10 double-faults.

The match was interrupted by heavy rain after they completed just two games in windy and chilly conditions Wednesday night. When play resumed about 14 hours after the suspension, the sun was out, the temperature rose above 70 degrees (20 Celsius) and Williams no longer needed the long-sleeved white top and black leggings she used the night before.

The 80th-ranked Hibino, who came into this match with an 0-3 career record at Indian Wells, will meet No. 17 seed Veronika Kudermetova in the second round.

On Day 2 in the desert, with a packed scheduled because of the previous night’s weather, winners included three-time Grand Slam title winner Naomi Osaka, 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu, 2018 Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki and 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins. Next for Collins is a matchup with No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who edged her in three sets at the Australian Open in January, while Osaka’s 6-3, 6-1 victory over qualifier Sara Errani allowed her to move on to face No. 14 Liudmila Samsononva.

Among the men, three-time major champ Stan Wawrinka was edged 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2 by 63rd-ranked Tomas Machac, and Gael Monfils, qualifier Lucas Pouille, Borna Coric and 19-year-old American Alex Michelsen won.

Rafael Nadal was supposed to play in his first tour match since January on Thursday night, but he withdrew from the tournament on Wednesday.


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