Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bulgarian Teen Shocks Venus

On Day One of the Australian Open, American Venus Williams (10) was upset by Bulgarian Tszvetana Pironkova 2-6, 6-0, 9-7. Williams' undoing was 65 unforced errors.

"She's a very good player," Williams said to the press during a postmatch press conference. "But also I had close to 70 unforced errors. I mean, if I'm not shooting myself in the foot like that, then I'm going to be able to most likely be the victor. She is very good and stayed in there. That's what it takes to beat someone like me. But obviously it was not my best day."

After a strong start which gave her the first set, her game fell off at the wrong time. With the 18-year-old teenager in her debut slam steadying from the baseline, Williams began to misfire shots long from the baseline, which only gave her opponent more confidence.

Williams' first serve percentage also started to come down, which allowed Pironkova to have more looks at breaking. Pironkova took advantage, winning 22 of 31 (71 percent) points on the second serve. She also broke Williams eight times in a match which saw each player trade breaks, especially in the final set.

With Williams coming undone in the second set, Pironkova easily captured it to force the deciding frame. That's when a seesaw battle of wills took place. After each player traded breaks, two Venus errors gave Pironkova a 5-3 lead. But with a chance to serve it out, she was broken back and then dropped the next two games to trail 6-5, giving Venus a chance to close it out. However, another lose game allowed Pironkova to level it again at six.

Both players raised their intensity to get to seven all. When Pironkova held for 8-7, Venus finally cracked. She netted an easy backhand putaway and then sent a backhand short to give the Bulgarian the victory.

"You can't make 70 errors and expect to win," Williams added.

In the end, it resulted in a short stay at Melbourne Park for Venus.

Williams wasn't the only seeded woman to fall. Ninth seeded Russian Elena Dementieva was victimized in straight sets by German Julia Schruff 7-5, 6-2. Also knocked out were Tatiana Golovin (24) and Ai Sugiyama (26).

2005 runner-up and top seeded American Lindsay Davenport had an easier time of it, routinely disposing of Casey Dellacqua 6-2, 6-1. She'll next face Karolina Sprem, who advanced over Alona Bondarenko 6-4, 6-2.

In her return match to a slam, Jelena Dokic fell in three sets to Virginie Razzano 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1.

Another comebacker, three-time Australian Open champion Martina Hingis will face Vera Zvonareva (30) later today.

On the men's side, '05 U.S. Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri (13) defeated Jurgen Melzer in straight sets 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. Also moving on were David Nalbandian (4), Gaston Gaudio (8), Radek Stepanek (17), Mario Ancic (18) and Jarkko Nieminen (26).

Second seeded American Andy Roddick takes on Michael Lammer later.

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