• Australian Open

Serena safely through, but Venus and Kvitova stunned

ESPN staff
January 13, 2014
Serena made light work of Barty © Getty Images

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Serena Williams made light work of Ashleigh Barty as she waltzed into the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-2 6-1 victory.

The world No. 1 showed her opponent a lot of respect and the win was carried out in a professional manner - and Williams even led the applause as 17-year-old Barty made her way back to the locker room.

No such joy for sister Venus Williams though. Just as she was starting to show glimpses of returning to form, the elder sibling was let down by her serve and her concentration at crucial times and lost 2-6 6-4 6-4 to Ekaterina Makarova.

The No. 22-seeded Makarova upset Serena in the fourth round here in 2012, but was comprehensively outplayed in the first set against the elder of the sisters on Monday, dropping serve three times.

Williams had chances in the second set, too, missing a break-point opportunity to go up 4-2, and then serving three consecutive double-faults after leading the ninth game 40-30 to surrender a crucial break.

The 33-year-old Williams, the second-oldest player in the tournament and seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, took some time out after the second set to change her zebra-striped dress and came back strongly, taking a 3-0 lead. But Makarova rallied again and Williams' error count rose -- she had 21 of her 56 unforced errors in the deciding set.

She has struggled with injuries and illness in recent seasons but reached the final of the WTA event at Auckland to open the year and said after arriving at Melbourne Park that she was feeling better than she had in years.

Wilko: Murray's right - he won't win

Murray has played just four competitive matches since his surgery © Getty Images
  • Andy Murray is recovering from back surgery and if he is to win the Australian Open he will likely need to get past Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic following an unfavourable draw for the Scot.
  • The man himself says he probably won't win in Melbourne - and ESPN's resident tennis expert and former British No. 1 Chris Wilkinson agrees.
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"The last 12 months I have had issues, but this year I definitely am looking forward to having a good run and feeling well.''

That didn't happen Monday.

"My level was a little bit too up and down. Obviously my error count was a little high,'' Williams said. "I have to give her a lot of credit, though, she was very determined, played hard.''

It was only the second time in 14 appearances that Williams lost in the first round at the Australian Open, where her best run remains a loss to her sister in the 2003 final.

"It was a really tough match to play someone like Venus in the first round, she is such a great player,'' Makarova said. "At 3-0 down (in the final set), I decided I had to fight for every point. I just kept fighting and I turned around the match.''

Makarova will meet another American in the second round after qualifier Irina Falconi beat Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-3 6-1. The highest-ranked player to lose was sixth seed Petra Kvitova - who was stunned 6-2 1-6 6-4 by Thai world No. 87 Luksika Kumkhum.

The 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani was also on the receiving end of an upset, beaten 6-3 6-2 by German Julia Gorges.

Two-time finalist Li Na beat Ana Konjuh of Croatia - the youngest player in the tournament - 6-2 6-0 in just 61 minutes.

"Like zero, you know,'' Li said when asked what she knew about Konjuh's game ahead of the match. "I tried to find her game in YouTube, and I watched a couple of games. But it was still strange at the beginning of the match because I really didn't know the way she played on the court.'' Konjuh is the defending Australian Open and US Open junior champion.

Li, who lost finals to Victoria Azarenka last year and Kim Clijsters in 2011, has advanced to at least the fourth round every year since 2010.

"This is my favourite grand slam,'' said Li. "I always look forward to come back to Melbourne.''

On Monday, Li frequently strayed from her traditional baseline position, several times volleying from the center of the court for winners during the fourth game of the second set when she broke Konjuh's service.

Li will spend her off-day Tuesday studying any available video on qualifier Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, the reigning French Open and Wimbledon junior champion who beat 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan in three sets earlier on Monday.

Sabine Lisicki, a finalist at Wimbledon last year, eased past Mirjana Lucic 6-2 6-1.

Elsewhere, No. 9 Angelique Kerber, 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, who fought back from 4-1 down in the second set to beat Klara Zakopalova, No. 14 Ana Ivanovic, No. 28 Flavia Pennetta and No. 30 Eugenie Bouchard also went through, while Madison Keys wasted five match points in the second set and another in the third before finally beating Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 6-2 6-7(8) 9-7.

British pair Laura Robson and Heather Watson were both knocked out in the first round.

Williams' serve proved problematic © Getty Images
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