sport

Makarova beats a Williams again

Ekaterina Makarova completed a notable double in knocking Venus Williams out of the Australian Open in the first round.

Two years ago the Russian produced a stunning win over Serena Williams in the fourth round in Melbourne and on Monday she fought back impressively to beat Venus 2-6 6-4 6-4.

The American is, of course, no longer the threat she was, with age and ill health taking their toll, but this was definitely one that got away given she led 3-0 in the decider.

The 33-year-old said: "Obviously losing any match is never any fun, especially in a major. So I definitely would have wanted a different result.

"I think she played really well, and I my level was a little bit too up and down."

Venus will play women's doubles with Serena and once again insisted she has no plans to hang up her racquet.

"The last 12 months I have had issues, but this year I definitely am looking forward to having a good run and feeling well," she said, adding: "I love Australia. I'd love to come back."

At the other end of the age scale, attention was on two 16-year-olds, Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh, who have both been tipped for the top.

They experienced differing fortunes, with Croatian Konjuh's lack of experience showing in a 6-2 6-0 defeat by fourth seed Li Na.

But her fellow qualifier Bencic secured her first victory in the main draw of a grand slam by beating Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-4 4-6 6-3.

It was a real generational battle, with Date-Krumm an astonishing 27 years older than her opponent.

Swiss Bencic is coached by Melanie Molitor, the mother of Martina Hingis, and Hingis was in the stands to see the teenager triumph.

Bencic said: "She gave me some advice and I tried to do it. I was a little bit nervous in the beginning but then I just tried to keep the ball in the court. It was special."

Konjuh won the junior title at Melbourne Park last year and, despite the scoreline, Li backed her opponent to rise to the top.

The Chinesewoman tried to find clips of Konjuh on YouTube so she would know what to expect, and she said: "She has a huge serve and very good baseline play.

"I was feeling that if she had more experience, I think she'll be a very good player."

It was a convincing start for Li, who lost to Victoria Azarenka in the final last year and next meets Bencic.

Seventh seed Sara Errani was the first major casualty of the tournament, the Italian going down 6-3 6-2 to Germany's Julia Goerges.

In truth, it was not a huge surprise. Errani also lost in the first round last year and has not been in good form so far this season.

Home hope Sam Stosur fought back from 1-4 down in the second set to defeat Klara Zakopalova for the third time in the first round in Melbourne.

The 6-3 6-4 victory was nevertheless a notable result for the Australian 17th seed, who lost to Czech Zakopalova in Hobart on Friday.

Ana Ivanovic also made it through, the 14th seed defeating Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, who had her blood pressure taken on court after struggling with the heat, 6-4 6-4.

There was no happy return to grand slam tennis, though, for two-time grand slam finalist Vera Zvonareva, who was beaten 6-2 6-2 by Australian wild card Casey Dellacqua.

The Russian, who made the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010, played her first grand-slam match since Wimbledon in 2012 following 17 months out through illness and shoulder surgery.

There were also wins for teenagers Eugenie Bouchard, Madison Keys and Annika Beck along with seeds Angelique Kerber, Daniela Hantuchova and Kirsten Flipkens.