THAI NO1 AMONG SHOCK WINNERS IN FIRST-DAY SINGLES
THAI NO 1 Luksika Kumkhum extended her impressive run at Melbourne Park this year, scoring a
terrific upset win over 80th-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden on a day of shocks in the Australian Open women’s singles.
Two days after eliminating former world No 5 Sera Errani of Italy in the final qualification round, the 123rd-ranked Thai went one step further, taking just 72 minutes to win 6-3 7-5 on her third appearance in the year’s opening major tournament.
It was sweet revenge for the Thai, who lost 6-4 6-2 to the Swede in a 2014 Fed Cup World Group II playoff.
“I played her in the Fed Cup before so I did some homework before I came into the match. It’s great to be in the second round of a Grand Slam again,” said Luksika.
In the first set, Luksika drew first blood by unleashing a forehand cross-court winner that kissed the line. Larsson’s protest was rejected by
the chair umpire and, with video replays not being available on that outside court, the Thai broke to go up 3-1.
Play went with serve until Luksika served for the set at 5-3, when she wrong-footed her opponent to rack up three set points at 40-0 and eventually closed it out with an impressive serve, which Larsson returned to the net.
In the second set Luksika broke serve in the seventh game and served for the match at 5-4 but she played a loose game to allow Larsson to level at 5-5.
The Thai intensified her attack to have a break back point and was gifted with a double fault from her foe to gain the upper-hand again at 6-5. She saved a break point in the next game with a backhand winner before the Swede sprayed two shots long to sur
Up next for the Thai is former world No 8 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who stunned fifth-seeded Venus Williams 6-3 7-5.
It is the first time since 1997 that there will be neither of the Williams sisters in the second round, with Serena not playing after giving birth
to her first child.
Bencic, the world No 77, hasn’t lost to anyone in her last 15 professional matches, which included a hat-trick of tournament wins in Hua Hin,
Taiwan and Dubai.
“It will be a tough match for me as she just beat Venus in the first round. Although I’ll be the underdog, I will
put up a great fight,” vowed Luksika.
US Open champion Sloane Stephens was also among a string of seeds sent packing on a calamitous day for American players.
Stephens’ poor run since winning at Flushing Meadows in September continued, with the 13th seed crashing out 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 to Chinese number two Zhang Shuai, who made the last eight two years ago.
Also out is American big-hitter CoCo Vandeweghe, the 10th seed and a semi-finalist last year, who revealed she had been bedridden with flu for four days after slumping to Hungary's Timea Babos 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
There was better luck for French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who saw off Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-4.
Thailand also has representatives in the men’s doubles, where Sonchat and Sancai Ratiwatana, who secured a wildcard from the Asia Pacific playoffs, will take on Pablo Andujar and Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain in the first round on Wednesday.