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Jan 25th, 2004, 08:03 PM
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Venus Williams has all the time she needs if she wants to explore Australia. The Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, even the Outback.

She certainly won't be playing much tournament tennis.

She arrived at the Australian Open with grand plans of celebrating her comeback with a fifth major title. She leaves far sooner than she expected, beaten 6-4, 7-6 (5) by Lisa Raymond on Saturday in what was expected to be a routine match.

This is the first time in six visits Williams will not be playing in the second week at the Australian Open.

``This is definitely not the position I was anticipating,'' Williams said. ``I have two weeks off now _ I'll be a tennis tourist.''

Raymond, a former top-ranked doubles player, hadn't taken a set off Williams in three previous matches. On Rod Laver Arena, she painted the lines with her forehands, dominating the net and preyed on Williams' 44 unforced errors.

Raymond, who finished 2003 ranked No. 30 and whose career high is No. 15, attributed some of her success to doubles partner Martina Navratilova. The tennis great sent her a cell phone text message Saturday that said, ``Just be brave!''

Raymond and Navratilova, seeded second in doubles, later lost to Lindsay Davenport and Corina Morariu 6-3, 6-0 in the second round.

While No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 2 Kim Clijsters, No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo and No. 5 Davenport all advanced to the round of 16 without dropping a set, the third-seeded Williams must now look to her next tournament in Tokyo starting Feb. 2.

An abdominal injury sidelined her for much of last year. She did not play on tour after losing the Wimbledon final to sister Serena in July, and her ranking dropped to No. 11.

``I definitely had some high hopes to win here,'' she said. ``I'm pretty much in shock.''

She also lost in the Australian final last year to Serena, who did not recover from a knee operation in time to defend the title. Asked if she were 100 percent healthy, Venus Williams said: ``Everybody has their issues. I don't want to get into it.''

Clijsters beat Dinara Safina of Russia 6-2, 6-1 in the Vodafone Arena while Williams and Raymond were on center court. She's lost eight games in three rounds and was pleased to have three short matches after returning from an ankle injury.

Henin-Hardenne plays qualifier Mara Santangelo of Italy on Sunday, while Mauresmo faces Alicia Molik of Australia and Davenport takes on No. 11 Vera Zvonerava of Russia.

Among the men, Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero and Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis all advanced.

Britain's Tim Henman, seeded 11th, led by two sets before losing 6-7 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 9-7 to Argentina's Guillermo Canas; No. 14 Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic lost in five sets to Romania's Andrei Pavel; and No. 26 Albert Costa of Spain lost 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-1 to Morocco's Hicham Arazi.

``It's a pretty bitter pill to swallow,'' Henman said after the 4-hour, 53-minute match. ``These are the types of matches that you've got to find a way to get through. He did, and I didn't.''

Canas faces No. 8 Nalbandian in the next round.

Top-ranked Andy Roddick opens the fourth round Sunday against No. 16 Sjeng Schalken of Netherlands, and defending champion Andre Agassi tries to avenge a 2002 Wimbledon loss to Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand.

Federer's 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 win over Australian wild card Todd Reid preceded the Williams-Raymond match. After dropping serve in the fifth game, the second-seeded Swiss reeled off 14 consecutive games until Reid held in the third game of the third set.

Third-seeded Ferrero lost a set before overcoming Sweden's Joachim Johansson 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-4.

Williams joked that she'd have time to visit some Australian landmarks, like Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru. The more likely reality is that Williams will be back at practice once the shock wears off.

Williams fell behind 3-0 in the first set. Four of her seven double-faults came in her first two games.

That didn't appear to unsettle her mother and coach, Oracene Price, in the stands. But when Williams went behind 1-4 in the tiebreaker on a backhand error, Price started shaking her head.

Then Williams tied it at 4-4 with an ace before a stuttering finish to an 89-minute match that ended with a forehand sprayed wide.

Raymond advanced to the fourth round against wild card Tatiana Golovin. The Russian-born French teenager beat No. 23 Lina Krasnoroutskaya and will celebrate her 16th birthday Sunday.

The 30-year-old Raymond has four WTA Tour singles titles and 48 doubles titles since her debut at the 1989 U.S. Open. She had never been beyond the third round in 10 previous trips to Melbourne Park.

``I couldn't ask anything more of myself,'' she said. ``I think I played an incredible match.''

``It's pretty difficult to play someone who is serving like that today,'' she added. ``I came into this match knowing I had to step up to the plate and go for it.''