Upsetting start: US Open champ Stephens, Venus out in 1st round

Dean Simpson
January 17, 2018

The current US Open champion went down in three sets to China's Shuai Zhang on the opening afternoon of the tournament.

It always shaped as a tough opener for Stephens, who hasn't won a tour-level match since her triumph at the U.S. Open previous year and facing a player ranked No. 34, two spots off being seeded for the first major of the season.

In other first-round matches, 12th-seeded Julia Goerges extended her winning streak to 15 matches, beating unseeded Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-4.

The 18-year-old Canadian, whose rise to 50th in the ATP rankings in the past 12 months has been meteoric, won 6-1 6-3 7-6 (5) against the 19-year-old he also beat on his way to claiming the Wimbledon junior title in 2016. Williams had 26 unforced errors and 22 winners.

No. 13-seeded Stephens had a chance to serve for the match in the 10th game of the second set but dropped her serve, lost momentum and continued her run of eight straight defeats since her major breakthrough at the U.S. Open.

U.S. Open finalist Keven Anderson became the first seed to lose on the men's side.

Besides Nadal, the men's draw features defending champion Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka while the women's draw is wide open, with just two former champions in action. "I mean, c'mon, that's not my fault", she said during an argument with the chair umpire.

Bencic broke Williams serve in final game of the match, winning the last four points.

But Chinese battler Zhang would not lie down and gradually got herself on top, winning the second set on a tiebreak for the loss of only two points.

"Yes we were talking about it in the locker room and some of them were ribbing me that I had to carry the flag for us", Gibbs said. "But I have learned to just not panic".

Ryan Harrison beat Dudi Sela in a sometimes heated five-setter in front of a partisan crowd and qualifier Mackenzie McDonald also bucked the trend for the Americans.

Home hope Nick Kyrgios launched his Australian Open campaign with a 6-1 6-2 6-4 demolition of Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva on Monday to continue his bright start to the year.

The French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, made a positive start with a 6-1, 6-4 win over 37-year-old Francesca Schiavone.

Not everyone found the going tough on a mild opening day in Melbourne.

She yelled an obscenity near the end of the second set and that, combined with a time violation in a changeover while she waited for a banana, led to a point penalty. Vandeweghe told media she was not happy about Babos getting "in her face" but the Hungarian denied trying to rile her up.

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