By Dana Johannsen, Michael Burgess
Caroline Wozniacki – one of the ASB Classic’s key drawcards – has endured a few early scares before advancing through to the second round of the Auckland tournament.
She can rest easier now that defending champion Venus Williams has been knocked out by 18-year-old Daria Kasatkina in a thrilling three setter.
The defending champion – who had a 9-1 record at the tournament before today – looked out of sorts throughout the entire match, while Kasatkina produced the performance of her life.
It’s normal for players to suffer from early season rust, but the top seed just couldn’t get going against the World No75.
The American still had plenty of sublime moments but couldn’t stop making errors, particularly at crucial times. She had chances to wrap up the first set before the tiebreak and held a 3-1 lead in the final set, before losing five consecutive games.
Williams accumulated 73 unforced errors, making it impossible to win any game, let alone against someone who was returning everything with interest.
Tennis: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga arrives in Auckland
Tennis: Murray would leave Aussie Open for birth of first child
As for Wozniacki, the Danish third seed was forced to do it tough in her opening round match, overcoming a gutsy effort from world number 57 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.
Wozniacki, the first of the “big three” in action on centre court today, looked in all sorts of trouble early on, dropping the first four games. But just when it looked as though Kovinic was taking control, Wozniacki reeled off six straight games to take the first set 6-4.
The second set went more to plan for Wozniacki, with the star finding more consistency with her ground strokes.
The only hiccup for Wozniacki came late in the set, when, at 5-3 up at serving for the match, she let Kovinic back in with a sniff with a couple of unforced errors.
But just as the crowd were beginning to prepare themselves for another lengthy arm wrestle, following a marathon three-setter between Francesca Schiavone and Tamira Paszek in the opening match of the day, Wozniacki immediately broke back to seal the match.
Schiavone, the former French Open champion, was a surprise first round exit after falling to Paszek – the world number 172 – 7-6(4) 4-6 6-3.