Disastrous start to season for error-stricken Williams

After returning to peak form and winning Wimbledon last year, Venus Williams made a disastrous start to the season yesterday, succumbing to a little-known Bulgarian teenager in the first round of the Australian Open.

The American No 10 seed lost 2-6, 6-0, 9-7 to Tszvetana Pironkova, ranked No 94 in the world, in her worst Grand Slam performance for five years. Asked what lesson she drew from it, an ill-tempered Williams replied: "I think this is an indication that you cannot make 70 unforced errors and expect to win a match."

In fact, her error total was 65, two-thirds of them originating in a third set that exposed her as rusty and unfit. Notwithstanding her epic defeat of Lindsay Davenport in the Wimbledon final, she played only 12 tournaments last year and, until yesterday, had not struck a ball competitively since September.

Her sister, Serena, the defending Australian Open champion and No 13 seed, is scarcely more match-fit; however, she came through a tight second set to beat China's Na Li, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2.

Other seeds were less fortunate, with Elena Dementieva, the Russian No 9, defeated 7-5, 6-2 by Germany's Julia Schruff, and four other top-ranked players - Tatiana Golovin, Ai Sugiyama, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Klara Koukalova, - knocked out.

The leading men fared better, with the American Taylor Dent, ranked 27th, the only high-profile casualty, beaten by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, of Spain. Andy Roddick, the No 2 seed, survived, as did the fourth-ranked David Nalbandian, with the latter fending off a five-set challenge by Thailand's Danai Udomchoke.

In the women's draw, Davenport, the top seed and runner-up last year, progressed to the second round, as did Maria Sharapova, the No 4 seed, and Justine Henin-Hardenne, the French Open champion.

For Venus, though, yesterday evoked memories of her ignominious first-round exit from the French Open in 2001. Serving for the match at 6-5 in the third set, she was broken by the 18-year-old Pironkova, playing in her first Grand Slam encounter.

"I was just struggling to keep the ball in today," Williams said. "I just seemed to get to a point where I couldn't pull my game together. I don't know what happened. Obviously she benefited from my largesse." She snapped at a reporter who questioned whether she could regain her best form. "There's always going to be naysayers. You may be one of them, I don't know. Guess what, I don't care."

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Life and Style
The new model would be a “pedal assist” bike in which the rider’s strength is augmented by the engine on hills and when they want to go fast
tech
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower