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Sam Stosur avoided a humiliating first-round defeat at the Australian Open as British interest in the womenŠ—Ès draw ended on the opening day with defeats for Laura Robson and Heather Watson

Stosur safely through as Brits fall

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Originally published on 13/01/14

Former US Open champion Stosur, who has never made it past the fourth round at her home slam, defeated Klara Zakopalova 6-3 6-4 at Melbourne Park, less than a week after she was beaten by the Czech in Hobart.

“The first hurdle is quite often the hardest,” Stosur said. “To come out and play a pretty decent match, I’m pleased and a bit relieved. I’m very happy to get through and obviously rectify what happened a few days ago is also very pleasing.”

Robson, who has been struggling with a wrist injury in the build-up to the new season, was thrashed 6-3 6-0 by No.18 seed Kirsten Flipkens. The British No.1, who has claimed a handful of big-name scalps at previous Grand Slam tournaments, admitted she was short on match practice but refused to talk about her injury.

“Practice is a lot different to playing a proper match in slams,” she said. “I would have love to have played some more points beforehand, but that’s what happens sometimes.

“I prefer not to talk about my wrist because then it’s just going to become this massive excuse… really she just played better than me.”

Watson, meanwhile, put up more of a fight against No.31 seed Daniela Hantuchova, but eventually fell 7-5 3-6 6-3.

The British No.3, who had to come through three matches to qualify for the main draw, having slipped to world No.121 after struggling with glandular fever last season, will drop further down the rankings after failing to match last year’s third-round appearance.

"I feel like it's an opportunity lost for me," said Watson. "I really looked forward to this draw, but I've played 10 matches already this year – if you'd told me that last year I would have taken it in a second. Even though I might be dropping in the rankings, I'm not worried about that. I've had a good start to the year, I've improved as a player, and it's been a positive few weeks."

World No.1 and top seed Serena Williams fired an early statement of intent as she powered past Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-1.

Seventeen-year-old Barty was not overawed by the occasion, but the world No.1 was in fine form, hitting 31 winners to her opponent’s five. Williams, who is bidding to win a sixth Australian Open title, never faced a break point and won all 20 of her first serve points.

“She just has that presence on court that makes you want to probably push that little bit harder, gives you a bit of pressure,” Barty said. “It was a good experience.

“It was just awesome to have the opportunity to play against her tonight. I learned a few things.  It's going to be a really good experience for me moving forward.”

In the biggest upset of the day, former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was stunned by world No.88 Luksika Kumkhum 6-2 1-6 6-4.

Elsewhere, Venus Williams was dumped out by Ekaterina Makarova 2-6 6-4 6-4, while fourth seed Li Na cruised past Croatian youngster Ana Konjuh 6-2 6-0.

Ninth seed Angelique Kerber defeated home favourite Jarmila Gajdosova 6-3 0-6 6-2 in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena, but there was an upset later on Margaret Court Arena as Germany’s Julia Goerges overpowered No.7 seed Sara Errani 6-3 6-2.

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Sam Stosur avoided a humiliating first-round defeat at the Australian Open as British interest in the womenŠ—Ès draw ended on the opening day with defeats for Laura Robson and Heather Watson
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