Venus Williams is out of the ASB Classic much earlier than anyone had expected - but it may not be the last that Auckland tennis fans see of the legendary American.
The top seed and defending champion was beaten 7-6 3-6 3-6 by Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina in the first round on Tuesday, after reaching the final in each of the last two years.
But Williams - who admitted that the world No75 Kasatkina deserved her victory - was adamant she wanted to return next year, when she will be 36 years old.
"I would love to come back and next time I would make 72 unforced errors and not 73," joked Williams about her error-plagued loss. "I feel so happy here and every year I've played well here.
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Williams plans to stay a few days and "enjoy the hospitality" before heading off to Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.
The World No7 was clearly disappointed with her display, coming off a stellar year in 2015 where she returned to the top 10 for the first time in six years.
"I wasn't at my best and she played very well...played a smart game, said Williams. "First round, first match you are not going to play perfect but you hope you can pull it out. I didn't really find the magic and it is so disappointing after having played so well in the last couple of years. [But] all credit to her she deserved the win."
Williams is the first defending champion to lose at the first hurdle here since Greta Arn in 2012, though Arn was then world No 63 and not expected to progress far.