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Rediff.com  » Sports » Aus Open PHOTOS: Venus eclipsed by Makarova; Serena, Djokovic ease into 2nd round

Aus Open PHOTOS: Venus eclipsed by Makarova; Serena, Djokovic ease into 2nd round

Last updated on: January 13, 2014 18:45 IST

Venus ousted by Williams' nemesis Makarova

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A promising start to the season for Venus Williams was undone in two-and-a-half hours on Monday. The 33-year-old crashed out of the Australian Open in the opening round after a crushing defeat to her sister Serena's 2012 nemesis, Ekaterina Makarova.

Making her 61st Grand Slam appearance and 14th at MelbournePark, the American had arrived Down Under with an encouraging run to the final of the Auckland Classic, raising hopes of a fresh start after recent seasons blighted by injury and illness.

On a sunbathed Margaret Court Arena, the former world No 1 displayed the power and aggression of her halcyon days to roar through the opening set, but it was the uncertain, shaky Venus of recent vintage that ultimately collapsed to a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss, having taken a 3-0 lead in the third set.

Williams, who suffers from Sjogren's Syndrome which causes fatigue and joint pain, was hampered by back problems last year but declined to blame health issues for the loss. She could hardly have done so.


Image: Venus Williams of the United States reacts during her first round match against Ekaterina Makarova of Russia at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Monday
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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'I have to give her a lot of credit. She was really determined'

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Throwing herself around the court with the enthusiasm of a teenager, her struggles were largely self-inflicted as she gave up a decisive break in the second set with three successive double-faults and suffered another serving meltdown with victory begging in the third.

"I think obviously I think my error count was a little high," Williams told reporters.

"I was hitting the ball well this week, and, you know, obviously it was disappointing to not win the first round.

"I have to give her a lot of credit. She was really determined, and, you know, just kept playing hard. I think any time you're seeded you just really want to win the first round."

Williams will team up with sister Serena to bid for a fifth doubles title at Melbourne Park, and could well have another piece of silverware to fit into a crammed trophy cabinet, but her appearances in Grand Slam singles draws have become fleeting.


Image: Ekaterina Makarova of Russia celebrates winning her first round match against Venus Williams of the United States on Monday
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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Rusty Djokovic eases into second round

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Novak Djokovic showed a few signs of rustiness after the off-season, but still comfortably reached the second round of the Open with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 victory over Lukas Lacko.

It was the first step on a path Djokovic hopes will take him to a fourth successive title at Melbourne Park and he wrapped up the victory with a thundering ace after 110 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.


Image: Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand in his first round match against Lukas Lacko of Slovakia at the Australian Open
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Slovakian Lacko had the temerity to break Djokovic's serve

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Slovakian Lacko had the temerity to break Djokovic's serve in the first set, but the Serbian broke straight back and once he had secured a tight second set in the tie-break, a three-set victory never looked in doubt.

The second seed, who was watched by his new co-coach Boris Becker, next faces Argentine Leonardo Mayer, who earlier beat Spain's Albert Montanes 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.


Image: Lukas Lacko of Slovakia plays a backhand
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Serena tames local girl Barty to storm into Round 2

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A ruthless Serena Williams kicked off her bid for an 18th Grand Slam title with a 6-2, 6-1 demolition of local wildcard Ashleigh Barty to advance to the Australian Open second round on Monday.

After breaking the 155th-ranked Barty early, Williams reeled off seven consecutive games to march to a 4-0 lead in the second set under the lights of Rod Laver Arena.

A former Wimbledon girls' champion, Barty pumped her fists in the air after finally holding serve, raising a rare roar from the crowd.

But she was powerless to prevent the American, who did not lose a point off her first serve, from cruising to her 23rd consecutive win and setting up a second round match with Serbia's Vesna Dolonc.


Image: Serena Williams of the United States plays a forehand in her first round match against Ashleigh Barty of Australia at the Australian Open in Melbourne Park on Monday
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Ferrer steamrolls Gonzalez to enter Round 2

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World No 3 David Ferrer dispatched Colombia's Alejandro Gonzalez 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in just over two hours on Rod Laver Arena to also advance to the second round.

"I don't know," the 31-year-old Spaniard told reporters, when asked if he thought he could repeat last year's performance of making the semi-finals at Melbourne Park.

"I will have to play against (Adrian) Mannarino, and it's gonna be difficult match," he added of his second round opponent.

"He's a lefty. He plays very flat with his shots. I am only focused (on Wednesday)."

Ferrer used his semi-final loss at Melbourne Park last year to catapult himself to an impressive season that ended with two titles, his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros and finishing the year at number three in the world.


Image: David Ferrer of Spain plays a backhand in his first round match against Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia on Monday
Photographs: Matt King/Getty Images

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'In important moments I played better than him'

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Ferrer shook off the disappointment of a semi-final loss at last week's Auckland Open, a title he had defended for the previous three years, to quietly account for Gonzalez.

The 24-year-old from Medellin did provide some concern for Ferrer taking a 4-2 lead in the second set only for unforced errors to creep back into his game.

The World No 74, playing his first Grand Slam main draw match, looked to be flagging in the warm temperatures in the third set and Ferrer, considered one of the fittest men on the ATP Tour, was not going to let him off the hook easily.

"The conditions, well, it was very hot, sure," Ferrer said.

"It was important (to) win the matches in three sets.

"It was a close match. In the second and the third (sets) I was a few times break down, but in important moments I played better than him.

"Today maybe I didn't play my best tennis, but I won.

"That's important."


Image: Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia plays a backhand in his first round match against David Ferrer of Spain on Monday
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Thai Kumkhum registers upset win over Kvitova

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Thai World No 88 Luksika Kumkhum sprang the biggest upset of the Australian Open's first day by bundling out sixth seed Petra Kvitova 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in front of a frenetic crowd on Monday.

Serving at 4-3 in the third set to stay in the match, former Wimbledon champion Kvitova double-faulted to give her plucky opponent a chance to seal the match on serve but the Thai wavered to hand the break back.

Roared on by a vociferous crowd at the Margaret Court Arena, 20-year-old Kumkhum attacked Kvitova's serve with abandon to raise two match points in the next game and calmly sealed it on the first of them when the Czech pushed a return wide.

Kumkhum next plays German Mona Barthel.


Image: Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand plays a backhand in her first round match against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Monday
Photographs: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

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Li Na scores roaring win over Konjuh

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China's Li Na started the Australian Open like a woman on a mission on Monday by brutally dispatching Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh 6-2, 6-0 in just over an hour.

Another former Grand Slam champion, though, bid an early farewell to the tournament when American Venus Williams blew a 3-0 lead in the deciding set to crash out 2-6 6-4 6-4 at the hands of Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

Former French Open champion Li, twice a losing finalist at MelbournePark, simply bludgeoned her young opponent into submission with her fierce groundstrokes to lay down a marker for the other leading contenders for the women's title.

The fourth seed has become a big crowd favourite in MelbournePark after her two runs to the final and was again well supported on Hisense Arena as she rode Konjuh's early challenge before racing away with the second set.

"This is my favourite Grand Slam, I always love playing in Melbourne," a smiling Li said before leaving court.

The 31-year-old next faces another promising young talent in the second round after 16-year-old qualifier Belinda Bencic beat 43-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in a battle of the generations.


Image: Li Na of China plays a backhand in her first round match against Ana Konjuh of Croatia at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Monday
Photographs: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

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Kerber fights back in third set to beat local Gajdosova

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Ninth-seed Angelique Kerber shook off a second-set blip to advance to the second round with a 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 win over local wildcard Jarmila Gajdosova.

After an error-strewn first set, the 26-year-old Gajdosova looked out of the match in the second when she rolled her left ankle on Rod Laver Arena and needed a medical timeout in the opening game.

The injury somehow sparked a comeback from Gajdosova, who exploited Kerber's weak service game, and local fans began to believe she might advance to the second round at Melbourne Park for the first time in nine attempts.

But Kerber, who lost in the Sydney International final to qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova on Friday, quickly forgot her second set troubles and raced through the decider in 31 minutes to set up a clash with Alla Kudryavtseva, who defeated France's Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-6(9).


Image: Angelique Kerber of Germany plays a forehand against Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia in their first round match of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Monday
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Wawrinka gets walkover into 2nd round after Golubev's injury

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Stanislas Wawrinka, was the first man to reach the second round when the heavy strapping on Andrey Golubev's ankle and a lengthy medical timeout were not enough to keep the Kazakh on court and he retired trailing 6-4, 4-1.

Wawrinka, seeded eighth, will next play Alejandro Falla of Colombia, who beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, with a potential meeting with Djokovic looming in the quarter-finals.

"We never want the opponent to retire for injury, but that's what happened today," said Wawrinka.

"(But) I was feeling good. I think it's one of the best starts in a Grand Slam if I look at my game and how I felt on the court. I was moving well, playing strong, playing okay." 


Image: Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland greets Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan after the latter retired during their first round match at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Monday
Photographs: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

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