THE Williams sisters' aura of invincibility has lost some of its shine but don't expect the all-conquering duo to be gone for long.
Former world number one Venus Williams was sent tumbling out of the Australian Open in straight sets on Saturday after being out-foxed by 30-year-old tour veteran Lisa Raymond.
The defeat means that for the third time in eight months, a Grand Slam final will not feature a representative of sport's most famous sister-act.
It follows an unprecedented period of domination which saw Venus and younger sibling Serena face each other in the finals of four consecutive Grand Slams between 2002 and 2003.
Raymond, who varied her play cleverly to torment a sluggish Venus during Saturday's 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) victory, said there was no doubt that some of the mystique surrounding the sisters had been stripped away.
I think to a degree they've certainly lost a little bit of their lustre as far as being 'the Williams sisters', said Raymond, the 25th seed.
But at the same time, you know they're gonna play well. You know that they're gonna compete.
Raymond, who plays French schoolgirl Tatiana Golovin in the fourth round today, is adamant that the Williams' will bounce back.
You know they're hungry, probably hungrier than ever now that they have been off the tour for so long, and that they want to come back and establish themselves, she said.
Williams, who was playing her first competitive tournament since last year's Wimbledon final after six months on the sidelines recovering from an abdominal injury, was shell-shocked after the loss.
I'm pretty much in shock, said the two-time Wimbledon and US Open champion, who had not exited so early in a Grand Slam since a 2001 first round defeat at Roland Garros.
I still can't believe it, but that's the way I feel after every loss.
Williams now heads to Tokyo for February's Pan-Pacific Open and plans to use her unscheduled week off to do some sightseeing in Australia.
I'll be a tennis tourist, she said. I'll go see the Twelve Apostles, Ayers Rock, all those good things.
This is definitely not the position I was anticipating. AFP