The two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka will have to leave Melbourne much earlier than she expected, losing in the opening round to Laura Siegemund 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 in grueling two hours and 42 minutes for her worst result here since debut way back in 2006!
Laura won six points more than her rival and she was capable of raising her level after dropping that opening set, playing better and better as the match progressed to secure the place in the second round. There were 26 break points up for grabs and the German converted seven out of 15 to maintain the led, suffering four breaks of serve from 11 chances she offered to Victoria.
It wasn't the match of the highest quality, with too many errors on both sides, and Siegemund emerged as a deserved winner after hitting more winners than the Belarusian, rattling off the last four games of the match to cross the finish line first.
The first set lasted for an hour and they decided the winner in the tie break after four straight breaks from 2-2. Azarenka trailed 5-2 in the breaker before taking the next five points, stealing the set and gaining a massive boost before the rest of the match.
There was no plan to surrender in Laura's game even while trailing 4-2 in set number two, erasing the deficit to win it 6-4 and never look back, delivering ten of the last 12 games for an impressive win and the place in round two.
The oldest player in the draw, Venus Williams, made her Australian Open debut 21 years ago and she stayed on the course for her third Melbourne final after a thrilling 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 triumph against the 25th seed Mihaela Buzarnescu in two hours and 39 minutes.
Venus defended the second serve more effectively, scoring five breaks and giving her serve away three times to forge the crucial lead. The Romanian stole the opening set after trailing 5-3, breaking back in the very last moment and clinching the tie break 7-3 for an early lead.
She was on the verge of victory, leading 5-3 in set number two before Venus broke back at love in the crucial ninth game, carrying that momentum into the tie break that she won 7-3 to stay in the match and force a decider.
She had the boost now and two breaks of serve delivered the victory for her, more than two decades after reaching the last eight on debut at Melbourne Park! Timea Bacsinszky took down the 10th seed Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-0 in just 55 minutes, losing serve twice but conquering six breaks from seven opportunities to rattle off the last 12 games of the match and demolish the struggling Russian in one of the most one-sided encounters of the tournament so far. First round results:
Tamara Zidansek (SLO) vs Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 7-5 6-3
Madison Brengle (USA) vs [Q]Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-4 6-0
[Q]Bianca Andreescu (CAN) vs [WC]Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 7-6(1) 6-7(0) 6-3
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) vs Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3 6-0
[Q]Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS) vs [Q]Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 6-7(2) 6-2 6-4
Laura Siegemund (GER) vs Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 6-7(5) 6-4 6-2
Camila Giorgi (ITA) vs Dalila Jakupovic (SLO) 6-3 6-0
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) vs [WC]Clara Burel (FRA) 7-5 6-2
Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE) vs Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 6-2 6-1
Venus Williams (USA) vs Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) 6-7(3) 7-6(3) 6-2
Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) vs Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) 4-6 6-4 6-2