January 13, 2014
She was hailed as ‘the next great thing’ in tennis by the legendary Billie Jean King after winning Wimbledon in 2011. But Petra Kvitova crashed out in the very first round of the Australian Open, losing 2-6, 6-1, 4-6 to the little-known Luksika Kumkhum in Melbourne. The world number 87 from Thailand kept her cool despite Kvitova’s mid-match fightback and fully deserved her victory, which set the tone for a first day of surprises at 2014’s opening Grand Slam event.
Seventh seed Sara Errani was dumped out by world number 73 Julia Goerges, while 12th seed Roberta Vinci made it a miserable day for Italy when she was beaten 4-6, 3-6 by China’s Zheng Jie. Venus Williams was also defeated almost before the Aussie Open had begun, despite winning the first set 6-2 and leading the third 3-0. But Ekaterina Makarova prevailed 6-4, 6-4 when it mattered, proving what an unpredictable affair top-level tennis can be. It was only the second time in fourteen visits to Melbourne that Venus had lost in the opening round, and her powers as a singles performer appear to be fading rapidly.
There were no such problems for her sister Serena, who is out to achieve a calendar Grand Slam for the first time. The younger Williams saw off local girl Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 6-1, but still won over the Aussie fans by respecting the promising seventeen-year-old from start to finish.
The highlight of Day One, however, was the charm offensive launched by Novak Djokovic, who is aiming to become the first man to win the Aussie Open four times in succession. Having seen off Lukas Lacki 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1, Djokovic talked of his affection for the Australian people and his love for fiancee Jelena Ristic. Novak hasn’t lost a tennis match since he proposed to her back in September!
No doubt Rafa Nadal is very happy for them. But the Spaniard will be no less determined to spoil the party and stop that winning run at the end of what is sure to be a phenomenal fortnight. First, however, Nadal – who has already been complaining about the super-quick Melbourne courts – must negotiate one of the toughest first rounds imaginable, against Aussie favourite Bernard Tomic. Given the upsets we’ve already seen, the world will watch with interest.
The more thrills and spills we see in Melbourne, the more our appetite will grow for the greatest tournament of them all – Wimbledon this summer.
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