Venus Williams is over Down Under

By Courtesy of the Kansas City Star
Updated: January 17, 2006

Photo courtesy of Steve Holland

Photo courtesy of Steve Holland

MELBOURNE, Australia — Wimbledon champion Venus Williams crashed in the first round of the Australian Open today, losing 2-6, 6-0, 9-7 to Tszvetana Pironkova.

It was only the third time in 34 Grand Slam tournaments that Williams, a five-time major winner, has lost in the first round.

The 10th-seeded Williams sprayed 65 unforced errors, including 41 in the third set as she struggled to control her ground strokes in her first tour-level event since September.

Bulgaria’s Pironkova, ranked 94th, was broken when she served for the match in the 12th game of the third set. She saved two break points in her next service game and clinched it on her first match point on consecutive backhand errors from Williams.

Things went much better for top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, who had little trouble in the first round, advancing 6-2, 6-1 over Australian wild-card entry Casey Dellacqua.

Davenport, seeking her fourth Grand Slam tournament singles title and first since her win here in 2000, set up three match points with an ace and clinched it in 57 minutes with an overhead winner.

In the first match on center court, Davenport overwhelmed Dellacqua, 20. With Davenport serving at 4-2 in the first set, Dellacqua had a break point at 30-40, getting back on serve, but she dumped three straight shots into the net.

Dellacqua’s fourth double fault set up three set points for Davenport, who converted the third when Dellacqua sent a backhand long.

Dellacqua continued to self-destruct, grimacing as her errors mounted and double-faulting twice as Davenport broke and went up 5-1. Davenport won 19 of her last 21 service points.

“It’s great to be back,” Davenport said, acknowledging that with retirement always a possibility at this point in her career, she never knows whether she’ll return again.

No. 9 Elena Dementieva was the first seeded player ousted from the season’s first major. Dementieva, a 24-year-old Russian and a semifinalist at the last U.S. Open, lost 7-5, 6-2 to Germany’s Julia Schruff.

No. 13 American Robby Ginepri needed only 1 hour, 19 minutes for a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Austria’s Jurgen Melzer. Men’s No. 2 Andy Roddick opens later today against Michael Lammer, a 23-year-old qualifier from Switzerland.

If the men’s draw plays out according to seedings, Roddick will meet top-ranked favorite Roger Federer in the final.