Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Halep, Nadal, Venus fall in first round of Aussie Open

Second-seeded Simona Halep lost to qualifier Zhang Shuai
of China 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Australian Open.
2014 photo by Paul Bauman  
   Zhang Shuai's first Grand Slam victory in 15 attempts came against an unlikely opponent.
   The Chinese qualifier, who will turn 27 on Thursday, stunned second-seeded Simona Halep of Romania 6-4, 6-3 today in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Zhang's victory came shortly after 32-year-old Fernando Verdasco, who reached a career-high No. 7 in the world in 2009 and won the now-defunct SAP Open in 2010 in San Jose, ousted fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in a 4-hour, 41-minute battle of Spanish left-handers.
   Earlier, Johanna Konta, a Sydney-born British player, took out eighth-seeded Venus Williams 6-4, 6-2.
   In late first-round matches:
   --Dmitry Tursunov, a 33-year-old Russian who trains in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, retired with a hip injury while trailing No. 4 seed and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 7-6 (2), 6-3. Tursunov was playing in his first Grand Slam tournament since the 2014 U.S. Open after missing more than a year with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and pain in his left ankle.
   --No. 25 seed Jack Sock outlasted 18-year-old qualifier Taylor Fritz, making his Grand Slam debut, 6-4, 3-6, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 in an all-American matchup. Fritz, last year's ITF junior world champion, won the Sacramento and Fairfield Challengers back-to-back last October at 17.
   --Lleyton Hewitt, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion who will retire after the Australian Open, beat fellow Aussie James Duckworth 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4. Hewitt, who will turn 35 next month, won the SAP Open in 2002 and reached the final there in 2006.
Fernando Verdasco, awaiting serve in last year's U.S. Open,
ousted fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Halep, an Australian Open quarterfinalist in the previous two years, withdrew Brisbane two weeks ago with left Achilles' inflammation but advanced to the Sydney semifinals last week.
   Both Zhang (2014) and Halep (2011) are 0-1 in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   Verdasco pummeled his serve and groundstrokes to avenge a 5-hour, 14-minute loss to Nadal on the same court, Rod Laver Arena, seven years ago in the Australian Open semifinals. It was the longest match in Australian Open history at the time.
   Nadal, who has won 14 major singles titles, lost in the opening round of a major for only the second time in his career. He fell to Steve Darcis in the first round at Wimbledon in 2013.
   Nadal has failed to reach the fourth round in his last three Slams.
   Konta, 24, was making her Australian Open main-draw debut. Williams, 35, has won seven Grand Slam singles titles, the last one coming at Wimbledon in 2008. In her only Australian Open final, she lost to younger sister Serena in 2003.
   Venus Williams has reached the Bank of the West Classic final seven times, winning in 2000 and 2002 and losing in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2009. She made her pro debut in the tournament at 14 in 1994, when it was held in Oakland.

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