Tuesday 16 January 2018

Serena left to fly Williams flag as Venus fails to shine

Serena Williams plays a backhand in her first round match against Ashleigh Barty
Serena Williams plays a backhand in her first round match against Ashleigh Barty

Eleanor Crooks

Serena Williams ruthlessly dispatched teenager Ashleigh Barty, but her sister Venus and Czech Petra Kvitova were both sent packing on the opening day at the Australian Open.

Facing the world No 1 was a daunting assignment for 17-year-old Australian wild card Barty and, not surprisingly, she could offer little resistance as Williams eased to a 6-2 6-1 victory inside an hour.

Williams is looking for her first Melbourne title in four years after ankle problems contributed to shock defeats in 2012 and 2013.

"It was a little tricky out there. It's good to get through that match. She could be potentially a dangerous opponent," she said.

DECIDING

It looked like Venus would be the first Williams sister through to the second round when she led 3-0 in the deciding set against Ekaterina Makaraova. But the Russian fought back to win 2-6 6-4 6-4, completing a notable double after taking out Serena in the fourth round two years ago.

The shock of the day was undoubtedly former Wimbledon champion Kvitova's 6-2 1-6 6-4 defeat by little-known Thai Luksika Kumkhum. The Czech could offer little explanation, saying: "I really want to know what happened out there. I didn't play my game that I really tried all off-season to work on."

There was no happy return to Grand Slam tennis for two-time finalist Vera Zvonareva -- after 17 months out through illness and shoulder surgery, she was beaten 6-2 6-2 by Australian wild card Casey Dellacqua.

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka and third seed Maria Sharapova begin their campaigns today, as do Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN,

LIVE, EUROSPORT, 6.0AM

Irish Independent

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