Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams suffer first-round exits

Australian Open first round preview Venus Williams vs Belinda Bencic
FACTBOX-Tennis-Venus Williams v Belinda Bencic
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16 January, 2018

Serena Williams withdrew from the event due to maternity, but the 2017 finalist Venus was handed a brutal draw that turned deadly when she was upset by the Williams-killer Belinda Bencic 6-3, 7-5 in first-round action.

Serena is missing following the birth of her daughter in September and the last time neither of the American tennis sisters got to round two in Australia Steffi Graf was world number one and Bencic was still two months away from being born.

Although Williams fared better in the second, the in-form Swiss hitter outworked the American and sealed the victory 7-5, after breaking serve in the final game. Williams, who usually overpowers opponents, had fewer aces (two to Bencic's five) won fewer first serve points (57 percent, to Bencic's 76 percent) and had more unforced errors (26-12).

"I would like to have played someone easier", said Bencic. "That feels great. I saw him after the match. he was very happy for me".

The competition will take on a rather unfamiliar appearance from hereon in, with neither Venus nor Serena through to the second round after the former - the fifth seed - was beaten by Belinda Bencic on Monday.

"I don't think I played a bad match". She began this year by winning the Hopman Cup in Perth with her illustrious compatriot Roger Federer - whose parents were in her box for the Williams match - so she can certainly play and she is in form. "I'm just happy to be on court".

Initially, Bencic was doubtful about playing Venus as she lost to Serena on the same stage a year ago. "This is a new year". "I'm going to beat someone eventually". You only had to tune into the Open last year - or, indeed, the whole tennis year - to see Roger Federer, then 35, prove that yet again.

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"I came out a little bit slow in the first couple games of the second, but I got it back". When she returned late a year ago, she won 28 of 31 matches and four titles and surged back into more respectable rankings territory. I will have the best Instagram picture when I finally snap this losing streak.

Melbourne: A ruthless Rafael Nadal preserved his creaky knees for tougher tests down the road by routing Dominican journeyman Victor Estrella Burgos 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 to sail into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday. I don't have to make myself uncomfortable because [the tournament is] ill prepared.

Since beating Madison Keys in last year's US Open final, Stephens has lost eight matches. "She just played above and beyond", said Venus Williams, who was playing her 18th Australian Open. You know, it's a long journey. She ended last season without a title.

Nadal drew as much attention for his attire, going back to a sleeveless look for the first time in almost a decade. I think that's taken a toll. "I never thought I'd get a chance to play them".

And clearly, so did No. 10 seed and No. 13 seed, who both lost Monday (all three played in last year's US Open semifinals).

Williams, meanwhile, may have plenty of American company on the plane home, with men's 16th seed John Isner also sent packing, upset in four sets by unfancied local Matthew Ebden. Ryan Harrison has the only win for the USA so far on day one, beating Israel's Dudi Sela in five sets. I've been playing that level now for a while.

"It's unbelievable", Bencic said of the success of Williams.


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