Down 0-3 in the third set, Ekaterina Makarova--who had played it safe throughout most of her opening round Australian Open match against Venus Williams--just went for it. The Russian had reached a final set pretty much by holding fast and waiting for Williams to make errors. Makarova didn't really look like herself, in my opinion, and then--with time running out--she finally turned on the aggression and forced Williams to react more quickly than she probably wanted to. It seemed like a risky strategy, but it worked.
During the first set, and at the beginning of the third set, Williams did look like herself, volleying up a storm and playing a good nerve game in long rallies against the big-hitting Russian. But inconsistency can be Williams' downfall, and it was today. The 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss marks the first time that Williams has made a first round exit in a major.
If inconsistency is a problem for Venus Williams, then it's an absolute bugaboo for Angelique Kerber. The German had improved her serve quite a bit, but that improvement has apparently been erased. She beat an injured Jarmila Gajdosova 6-3, 0-6, 6-2. Go figure.
Daniela Hantuchova, who tends to shine in Melbourne, won her first round match against Heather Watson, and Watson's countrywoman, Laura Robson, was shown the exit by 18th seed Kirsten Flipkens. Vera Zvonareva quietly went out in straight sets to Casey Dellacqua, and Li Na advanced with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Ana Konjuh. Kimiko Date-Krumm lost, but--not surprisingly--dragged Belinda Bencic to three sets.