Published: Tue, January 16, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Belinda Bencic stuns fifth seed Venus, Sloane loses

Belinda Bencic stuns fifth seed Venus, Sloane loses

The Dane was joined in the winner's circle by fellow Top 10 winners No. 4 Elina Svitolina who beat Serb Ivana Jorovic 6-3, 6-2, and No. 7 Jelena Ostapenko who spanked former Slam victor Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-4.

Williams, who lost in the final to sister Serena previous year, was stunned by Swiss star Belinda Bencic, fresh from winning the Hopman Cup with Roger Federer.

Notably, the seven-time Grand Slam champion lost to her sister Serena Williams in 2017 Australian Open and emerged as the runner-up.

Bencic missed almost 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. "Just give me a little bit to regroup and we will be okay".

"Why should I feel uncomfortable because the court is ill-prepared?"

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After a stellar junior career, Bencic rose quickly through the senior ranks and two years ago was ranked seventh before injury problems struck.

"I think all the week it was so great learning from him on the court or off the court", she said of her victorious week in Perth with the men's world number two.

Bencic, who like Federer speaks multiple languages - Slovak, Swiss German, German, English - credited the Hopman Cup win with boosting her confidence for the first Grand Slam of the year.

She then had to hold off an immediate fightback from the veteran American, saving five break points in an attritional game before a passing rain shower caused a 20-minute delay as the roof on Rod Laver Arena was closed. But on the other side, I have nothing to lose. "Also she beat me four times before, so I was really happy, took my chance this time".

"I changed the perspective a little bit and I came back now appreciating more being on the tour and just playing matches", Bencic explained. "It was a very, very long time when I was out [injured]". I couldn't wait to come back, so it means a lot...

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It's the first time since 1997, the Australian Open will not feature either of the Williams sisters in the second round, after Serena withdrew from the tournament at the beginning of the month following her recent pregnancy. "I used to watch Serena and Venus on TV when I was little girl, never dreaming I would play them one day and now I am, it's fantastic". It's really tough to play her, you have to be on the limit of your game.

It was a day to forget for American competitors at the Australian Open on Monday, most of whom were sent packing early.

Stephens looked good for a win early on before Shuai Zhang gritted her teeth for an ultimately convincing 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 victory.

But Stephens believes the negativity about her form is unfair. Serena, 36, became the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era and did it while she was pregnant - so how important is age, especially in a game that does not involve body contact? "Who cares? No one cares about my life".

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