World No. 1 Serena Williams made her case for an uninjured, dominant campaign against a tough opponent on Monday at the Australian Open, while carnage in the lower seedings saw seven seeded exits, including a former world No. 1 and a former Slam champ.
Williams, showing no symptoms of the knee injury that forced her out of pre-Aussie Open events, topped the free-swinging Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-4, 7-5.
“I think I was able to stay in it and stay calm today,” Williams said. “I’m happy to be back here. Every day to come back out here is just so amazing, it’s great. What makes it special for me is that I still get those butterflies and those nerves.”
If the Top 10 in action had any butterflies, it didn’t show as none dropped a set to opponents with No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska defeating American Christina McHale 6-2, 6-3; No. 5 Maria Sharapova rolling Japan’s Nao Hibino 6-1, 6-3; No. 6 Petra Kvitova looking like she has shaken off recent illness against Luksika Kumkhum 6-3, 6-1; and No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro topping Swiss Viktorija Golubic 7-5, 6-4.
Sharapova started off on the right foot on a journey that could lead to a meeting prior to the final with the world No. 1 Williams.
“No matter how much you train, it’s always different when you walk out onto the court,” Sharapova said of the butterfly effect. “It’s definitely a relief to get that first one out of the way.”
Other seeded winners on the day were No. 12 Belinda Bencic, No. 13 Roberta Vinci, No. 23 Svetlana Kuznetsova, and No. 28 Kristina Mladenovic, all in straight sets.
But now on to the seeded carnage-a-plenty.
Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki went down in a heap after winning the first set 6-1. The former No. 1 collapsed to a 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 loss against Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
“It wasn’t a pretty first set but I got it done and really should have closed it off in two,” said Wozniacki, who now helps open up the draw of the world No. 1 Williams. “I let her back into the match, and it was basically my own fault that I’m not here as the winner.”
No. 25 Sam Stosur was another high profile, but not unexpected casualty with her homecountry record, losing 6-4, 7-6(6) to Czech Kristyna Pliskova.
Also on the upset tip were Russian Margarita Gasparyan ousting No. 17 Sara Errani 1-6, 7-5, 6-1; Russian Elizaveta Kulichkova handling No. 22 Andrea Petkovic 7-5, 6-4; Russian Darya Kasatkina surprising No. 27 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-3, 6-3; American Lauren Davis out-scrambling No. 26 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4; and in the biggest shocker of the day, or perhaps not if you file with Stosur under “Can’t Win When People Are Watching,” Auckland winner of a little more than a week ago Sloane Stephens, the No. 24 seed, in a sloppy performance was shown the exit by China’s unheralded Wang Qiang 6-3, 6-3.
After losing to a player ranked outside the Top 100, Stephens gave the media a peek inside the mind of a player who spends too much time on Twitter.
“After Auckland everyone was like ‘Oh, we can support Sloane again because she’s playing good and she’s looking good and we need to get back on that bandwagon because we kind of abandoned her,'” said Stephens, who has 36 unforced errors, or two per game, over two sets. “And then you lose and they go back to ‘She doesn’t work hard, she’s not committed, she doesn’t love the game.’ For me, I’m never going to win…I’m human so I have bad days.”
Women’s matches to watch for Tuesday in Melbourne include the injury-riddled (2) Simona Halep vs. China’s Shuai Zhang, (8) Venus Williams vs. hot-handed Brit Johanna Konta, and (15) Madison Keys who will be playing her first match of 2016 vs. one of last year’s breakout players Zarina Diyas.
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