The 13-time Grand Slam champion committed 37 unforced errors Monday, compared to 24 winners, and she let Makarova off the hook when the Russian served. Makarova, whose second serve isn't particularly potent, won 70 percent of those points. Williams served at a poor 52 percent.
The end result was a 6-2, 6-3 defeat.
Williams, though, was intent on playing that up instead of giving Makarova credit. And it's far from the first time that's happened.
Williams began her news conference by saying, "[Makapova] played really well."
Later, however, when asked what the 56th-ranked Makarova had in her arsenal that troubled her, Williams retorted: "I honestly think it was on my racket. I hit a lot of errors. She hit some great shots down the line. But I mean, every ball that came, I just hit it as far out as I could."
Perhaps, but the leading men are more gracious in defeat. Further, players in winning positions against Williams at majors in the past have buckled. Makarova didn't.
"I played her in Beijing and I was really afraid of her because she's a great player and it's really tough to play against her," said Makarova, a loser to Williams in the Chinese capital in 2009. "But this time, I don't know, yeah, I felt so comfortable. I really thought that I could beat her. So, yeah, maybe in my head that helped me."
Williams, who injured her left ankle in Brisbane earlier this month, said she wouldn't have played at the tournament if it wasn't a Grand Slam.
"No, no way," she said. "I probably shouldn't have played."
Yet Williams was ready to play Fed Cup -- in an Olympic year -- against Belarus in Massachusetts in early February. Her boycott of Indian Wells is set to continue.
"I'm gonna play Fed Cup," Williams said. "I look forward to that. Gosh, I was just thinking I want to pick up a tournament because I did so awful here. There's no tournaments, unless I pick up Indian Wells, and we all know I'm not going there. It crossed my mind very briefly, like a nanosecond."
It wasn't as quickly as that, but Williams made her earliest exit in Melbourne in six years.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.