Former world No.1 Venus Williams has crashed out of the Australian Open in the first round for the second time in three years, losing 6-4 6-2 to tournament debutant Johanna Konta in just an hour and 19 minutes.
Williams, who reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne a year ago before returning to the world’s year-end top 10, arrived as the No.8 seed but looked out of sorts throughout the contest at Rod Laver Arena.
“I'm very satisfied with how I dealt with the situation,” Sydney-born Briton Konta said. “It was hot out there. I was playing an incredibly great player. That's no secret.”
The trouble began early for Williams, losing her serve at 1-1 with some uncharacteristic errors and appearing from the outset to be somewhat hampered in her court movement.
To her credit, 23-year-old Konta was unfazed and continued to pour the pressure on the American, quickly drawing away to a 5-2 lead. Williams rallied late, but the damage was already done.
“Obviously, there are nerves,” she said. “I just really focused on my breathing and tried to stay very present. Just very much staying with the work at hand, because it's never over until you're shaking hands.”
After taking the first set in 41 minutes, Konta raced out to a 5-0 lead in the second before Williams once again showed some brief resistance. The 35-year-old denied the world No.47 the chance to serve out the match at the first time of asking and held break points at 5-2, but Konta refocused to secure the win.
“I have all the respect for her in the world,” Konta said of seven-time Grand Slam champion. “Even if she's playing with one leg out there, you've got to really take care of things.”
Konta now moves on to face Germany’s Carina Witthoeft or Saisai Zhang in the second round.