Resurgent Venus stopped in 1st round at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia — When Johanna Konta found out she was playing Venus Williams in the first round of the Australian Open, she thought to herself, “I just hope I stay out there more than an hour.”
The Sydney- born British player did last more than an hour on Tuesday — one hour, 19 minutes to be exact — to reach the second round with a 6-4, 6-2 victory.
For the first time in a long time, the resurgent Williams was on the long list of women’s favorites coming into a Grand Slam tournament. She had reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open last year and finished a career-reviving year with three titles to break back into the top 10 after a four-year hiatus.
But the 35-year-old American, who was seeded eighth in her 16th appearance at Melbourne Park, fell in her opening match to a player making her tournament debut.
Williams has lost in the first round of a major eight times — in a career that has now spanned a remarkable 69 Grand Slam tournaments. And counting.
“It’s irrelevant how old (Venus) is because she’s such a champion with so much experience and so much knowledge about the game,” said Konta, who was born in Australia to Hungarian parents and moved to Britain a decade ago.
“Even if she’s playing with one leg out there, you’ve got to really take care of things on your own, because she’s an incredible player.”
Williams did have both of her legs against Konta at Rod Laver Arena, but little else in her game was working. She lacked pop on her serve, hitting just one ace to five for Konta, and couldn’t match the No. 47-ranked player’s power from the baseline.
She fell behind 5-0 in the second set before Konta started to tighten up and Williams found her range to get a break back and hold serve at love for 5-2. But before the seven-time Grand Slam champion could regain any momentum, Konta closed out the match on her next serve.
Williams gave a wave to the crowd and trudged off the court slowly before walking past a line of banners displaying photos of past Australian Open champions, her sister Serena among them. She declined to talk to the media after the match, a violation that could lead to a fine.
Konta has made a habit of sending top-ranked players off the court in a funk. She beat ninth-seeded Garbine Muguruza on the way to the fourth round of the U.S. Open last year and also has a win over No. 2 Simona Halep.
“I think it’s just an accumulation of having opportunities to play against such players, and, yeah, to really start feeling comfortable on these sorts of stages,” she said. “I’d like to one day spend most of my time on these stages.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.