Three-time doubles gold medalists Serena and Venus Williams lost an Olympic match as partners for the first time, stunned in the opening round of the Rio de Janeiro Games by the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-4.
The Williams sisters entered Sunday’s match with a 15-0 career record in the Olympics, winning the gold medal in women’s doubles every time they entered the event: in 2000, 2008 and 2012.
The American duo was seeded No. 1 in Rio and coming off a 14th Grand Slam championship together at Wimbledon a month ago.
The sisters won gold together at Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, but did not compete at Athens 2004 after Serena pulled out through injury.
“We played terrible and it showed in the results,” said 22-time Grand Slam singles title winner Serena.
Venus, 36, also lost in the singles on Saturday, with US women’s Olympic tennis coach Mary Joe Fernandez claiming the seven-time major champion had been sick before arriving in Brazil.
Serena, 34, can still become the first woman to win two Olympic singles titles after the defending champion beating Australia’s Daria Gavrilova earlier on Sunday.
But Venus, who won the individual title at Sydney 2000, saw her hopes of a fifth gold ended by Safarova and Strycova.
Neither of the unseeded Czech pair had won an Olympic doubles match, also losing their only previous outing together in a Fed Cup match last year.
“It was what it was,” Serena said. “We have a chance to compete for our country and did the best that we can. We had a blast out there.
“I wouldn’t say it was devastating. It was a lot of fun and we will always remember these moments and these matches.
“At the end of the day, I think that’s what matters most.”