Published: Tue, January 16, 2018
Sport | By Fredrick Flores

Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens out in 1st round

Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens out in 1st round

Ostapenko is the first big name through to the second round.

Venus Williams, a finalist a year ago, is out of the Australian Open, beaten 6-3, 7-5 by Belinda Bencic on Monday.

Vandeweghe, a semi-finalist here and at the US Open previous year, was handed two code violations during her defeat, the first of them after an argument with the umpire over a lack of bananas on court. But Serena hasn't played a Grand Slam tournament since because of her pregnancy and the birth of her first child and is bypassing this year's event in Australia.

"Bad luck" was the message Belinda Bencic kept hearing after learning she would play Venus Williams in the first round of Australian Open 2018.

"I think I've improved everything", she said on her resurgence. "It taught me a lot, this frustrating time", the Swiss player said.

What appealed as one of the marquee match-ups in the women's first round lived up to its billing, just as Bencic justified her reputation as one of the finest young talents in the women's game.

"I didn't play so bad, I wasn't missing every shot".

Venus and Schiavone head a list of 19 players aged in their 30s in this year's draw, while there were just a handful teenagers. Williams had 26 unforced errors and 22 winners.

"I think (before) I had a little bit too much respect, played a little bit careful and safe", Bencic, who was a toddler when Venus won her first grand slam at Wimbledon in 2000, said. "I've lost to John the last two times and he's so tough to beat but I got vast positivity from the crowd and I feel great and full of energy".

Earlier, US Open champion Sloane Stephens had served for the match against China's Shuai Zhang only to lose 2-6 7-6 6-2.

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Defending finalist and fifth seeded Venus Williams bowed out to No. 78 in the world Belinda Bencic 6-3, 7-5. When she returned late past year, she won 28 of 31 matches and four titles and surged back into more respectable rankings territory.

She revealed she had been bedridden with flu for four days after slumping to Hungary's Timea Babos 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.

The US women's contingent has made a diabolical start to the Australian Open in the absence of seven-time champion Serena Williams.

"I lost to Venus four times and I tried my best to give my all today, and changed some things tactically. It will be OK".

At the end of the second set she received another code violation when she cursed at her opponent, afterwards saying Babos was trying to get "in her face".

Venus was looking much more aggressive in the second set, earning herself two more break point chances.

Ryan Harrison beat Dudi Sela in five sets and qualifier Mackenzie McDonald bucked the trend for the Americans. Williams, however, resurged after a brief washroom break and broke Bencic's opening service game.

The Florida-based South African fell to Kyle Edmund - the lone British man in the draw in the absence of the injured Andy Murray - 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4.

The volatile 17th seed was on his best behaviour, apart from one first-set rant about a heckler in the crowd, letting his racket do the talking as he treated his fans in the Hisense Arena to an impressive opening salvo. That resulted in a point penalty to start the second set. "I was a huge underdog", Bencic said. She may add one tournament to her schedule before that.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko made a positive start with a 6-1, 6-4 win over 37-year-old Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open victor, and No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Kateryna Kozlova.

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