Bencic dismisses Williams in first round of Australian Open as three US seeds stunned

Bill Scott, DPA on

Published in Tennis

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Belinda Bencic scored the first major upset of the Australian Open on Monday, beating 2017 finalist Venus Williams 6-3, 7-5 in a groundbreaking win for the 20-year-old Swiss.

Prior to their first-round meeting, Bencic had lost four matches against the 37-year-old Williams, failing to win even a set.

But all that changed at Rod Laver Arena as the outsider pulled off a huge surprise.

Twelve months made all the difference -- a year before, Bencic lost to Serena Williams in the first round of the Open.

"It was amazing, this match, the level was great," the 77th-ranked Bencic said. "She beat me four times before, so I was really happy, I took my chance this time. In our first matches, I think I had a little bit too much respect, played a little bit careful and safe. This time I really tried to come out and hit it big. It's really tough to play her, you have to be on the limit of your game.

"You have to come out with everything you have. I tried to do that today."

Bencic, who grew up watching the Williams sisters on television, added: "I never thought I'd be playing them now, I'm really enjoying it."

Bencic missed nearly half of 2017 through injury but is now back on full form, winning 32 of her last 35 matches, with two unofficial titles at the Hopman Cup and Kooyong Classic this month in Australia.

"It was a difficult five months, your perspective changes a lot. I'm enjoying the game much more now. I appreciate just playing," she said. "I'm happy to be on court. That frustrating (injury) time taught me a lot."

Bencic earned her win with the parents of Hopman Cup team-mate Roger Federer watching from her player box. The Swiss was also enthused after hitting a between-the-legs "tweener" in morning training.

"It was my first one, I've tried it for so many years," she said.

No. 5 Williams was one of three US women's seed to go down, followed by U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens (13th) and No. 10 CoCo Vandegweghe.

Stephens continued her dismal form since the New York success four months ago losing, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2, to China's Zhang Shuai after failing to serve out a straight-set win.

Zhang fought back as Stephens dropped her eighth match since winning the final at Flushing Meadows, exiting for the third consecutive year in the first round in Melbourne.

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Vandeweghe lost to Hungarian Timea Babos, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, with American drawing a penalty for wasting time by arguing with the chair umpire about the late arrival of energy-sustaining bananas to the court.

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki got away to a winning start, beating Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-2, 6-3.

"I'm happy to be through. It was not an easy match," Wozniacki said. "Maybe on paper it looks easy, but it wasn't. She's a tricky lefty opponent with a lot of confidence. I feel pretty good. I think it's a good start. Hopefully I can progress from here."

Seventh seed Jelena Ostapenko won a battle between current and former Roland Garros champions as the Latvian defeated Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone, 6-1, 6-4.

The 37-year-old Schiavone claimed the Paris title in 2011 and only recently reversed a decision to retire.

Ostapenko said she overcame problems with her game in the second set to move ahead at Melbourne park.

"I was playing pretty well. I started the match very, very well. Losing the second set 4-1, but then I came back. I'm happy the way I played," she said.

"I started to miss more in the second set but I found my game. I'm glad with how I finished the match."

German 12th seed Julia Goerges continued a winning streak going back to last October, defeating Sofia Kenin of the U.S., 6-4, 6-4.

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