Li Na cruises into second round of Australian Open, but Venus Williams stumbles out
Li Na was nearly flawless on Monday at a place she usually plays well, beating Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes in the first round of the Australian Open.
The same could not be said of seven-time grand slam event winner Venus Williams, who lost her opener against Russian Ekaterina Makarova in three sets.
China number one Li is a two-time finalist at Melbourne Park, losing to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year, and has advanced to at least the fourth round every year since 2010.
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 next play 16-year-old qualifier Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who beat 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan in three sets earlier on Monday.
Williams lost in the first round at the Australian Open for only the second time, with the American’s serve and concentration letting her down when it counted most in the 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 defeat
Williams breezed through the first set against the No 22-seeded Makarova, who had an upset win over Serena Williams in the fourth round at the 2012 Australian Open.
She had chances in the second, missing a breakpoint 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.
Williams led 3-0 in the third set but Makarova rallied strongly to advance to the second round. Williams was playing the Australian Open for the 14th time and the highlight remains a run to the final in 2003.