Melbourne - Venus
Williams and US Open champion Sloane Stephens led a string of seeds
sent tumbling out of the Australian Open on Monday in a calamitous day for
Williams, who lost in the final to sister Serena last year, was
stunned by Swiss star Belinda Bencic, fresh from winning the Hopman Cup
with Roger Federer.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner, in her 77th major, struggled
against a player who had never before beaten her to go down 6-3, 7-5 and
deprive the tournament of one of its biggest names.
It is the first time since 1997 that there will be neither of the
Williams sisters in the second round, with Serena not playing after
giving birth to her first child.
"I don't think I played a bad match. She just played above and beyond," said 37-year-old Williams, seeded five.
Bencic, 20, said featuring with Federer at the Hopman Cup had helped a lot, with the Swiss legend giving her advice and tips.
"I think all the week it was so great learning from him on the court
or off the court," she said, adding she spoke to him briefly after her
match and he "was very happy for me".
Also out of the opening Grand Slam of the year is American big-hitter
CoCo Vandeweghe, the 10th seed and a semi-finalist last year.
She revealed she had been bedridden with flu for four days after slumping to Hungary's Timea Babos 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
With Stephens also sent packing, it was a bad day for the United
States, in stark contrast to the last Grand Slam of 2017, when they all
made the semis at the US Open, leaving the women's draw in Melbourne
more unpredictable than ever.
The 2014 runner-up in Melbourne and 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia also departed, 6-2, 6-2 to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
And the US misery was compounded on the men's side with 16th-seeded John Isner being toppled by Australian Matthew Ebden.
Other seeded casualties included 2017 US Open finalist Kevin
Anderson, who was bundled out a in a five-set thriller by Britain's Kyle
Third seed Grigor Dimitrov survived, breezing into the second round, as did 10th seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno-Busta.
Stephens' poor run since
winning at Flushing Meadows in September continued, with the 13th seed
crashing out to Chinese number two Zhang Shuai, who made the last eight
two years ago.
The struggling Stephens put in an error-strewn performance on an
overcast and windy Melbourne day and has now not won in eight matches.
"I'm not going to get too down," she said after her 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 defeat.
There was better luck for French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who saw off Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-4.
The seventh seed raced through the first set on Rod Laver Arena
against the veteran Italian who was bizarrely wearing a back brace on
the outside of her shirt, before a tougher second set.
"I knew before the match that it's not going to be easy. She's very
experienced player and she's very long time on tour," said the Latvian.
Also into the next round with a straight sets win was German 12th
seed Julia Goerges, who won the lead-up Auckland Classic and is now on a
15-match unbeaten streak having ended 2017 with victories at Moscow and
World number two Caroline Wozniacki, who lost to Goerges in that New
Zealand decider, plays later Monday, along with men's top seed Rafael
Sixteen-time Grand Slam champion Nadal insists he is feeling fine
despite struggling with a knee injury and ready to go deep at an event
that he has only won once - in 2009 - among his string of major
Nadal, who faces the Dominican Republic's Victor Estrella Burgos,
lost an epic Australian Open final last year to Federer, who gets his
campaign under way on Tuesday.
Fellow multiple Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic, seeded 14, also
starts on Tuesday, along with former world number one Maria Sharapova
and top seed Simona Halep.
Results from the Australian Open on Monday:
Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) bt Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT) 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-4
Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP x10) bt Jason Kubler (AUS) 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1
Pablo Cuevas (URU x31) bt Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 7-5
Gilles Muller (LUX x23) bt Federico Del Bonis (ARG) 7-5, 6-4, 6-3
Ryan Harrison (USA) bt Dudi Sela (ISR) 6-3, 5-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2
Kyle Edmund (GBR) bt Kevin Anderson (RSA x11) 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Denis Istomin (UZB) bt Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7/3)
Alize Cornet (FRA) bt Wang Xinyu (CHN) 6-4, 6-2
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT x7) bt Francesca Schiavone (ITA) 6-1, 6-4
Duan Yingying (CHN) bt Mariana Duque-Marino (COL) 6-0, 6-1
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK x19) bt Taylor Townsend (USA) 6-0, 7-5
Julia Goerges (GER x12) bt Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-4, 6-4
Petra Martic (CRO) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 7-6 (7/5), 6-3
Zhang Shuai (CHN) bt Sloane Stephens (USA x13) 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2
Mona Barthel (GER) bt Monica Niculescu (ROM) 6-4, 7-5
Belinda Bencic (SUI) bt Venus Williams (USA x5) 6-3, 7-5
Irina Begu (ROM) bt Ekaterina Makarova (RUS x31) 3-6, 6-4, 8-6
Anett Kontaveit (EST x32) bt Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) 6-4, 7-5
Kaia Kanepi (EST) bt Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x24) 6-2, 6-2
Timea Babos (HUN) bt Coco Vandeweghe (USA x10) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) bt Alison Riske (USA) 2-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3
Kiki Bertens (NED x30) bt Catherine Bellis (USA) 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-2