Tennis

Ex-world No. 1 Wozniacki wins first set but crashes out

Former world No. 1 crashes out despite winning first set

Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki cut a frustrated figure as she crashed out of the Australian Open at the first hurdle yesterday, but she admitted she had no one but herself to blame.

The Dane, who remains one of the most marketable players in tennis despite never winning a Grand Slam title in 35 attempts, tossed away a one-set lead against 76th-ranked Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.

"I would say it's a pretty s***** start to the season," said Wozniacki (above), seeded 16th.

"It wasn't a pretty first set, but I got it done and really should have closed it off in two.

"You know, I let her back into the match, and it was basically my own fault that I'm not here as the winner."

She romped through the first set against Putintseva but, as the Kazakh's confidence grew, Wozniacki struggled to cope with her baseline game and went down 1-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 in 3hr 12 min.

"I can't believe I won the match," said 21-year-old Putintseva, who was shaking with nerves in her courtside interview and revealed she battled through blisters on her feet and toes.

"I was very nervous in the first set because I am not used to playing on such a big court. But then I got a bit more used to it."

Her reward is a second-round clash with Chinese wildcard Han Xinyun, and a potential fourth-round encounter with world No. 1 Serena Williams.

DISAPPOINTING

It was a disappointing start to the year for 18th-ranked Wozniacki, who has struggled to regain the form that saw her end 2010 and 2011 as world No. 1.

She won in Malaysia last year, but other highlights were few and far between.

Capping off her misery, she cut her finger badly with a bread knife and withdrew from the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, southern China, in November.

She said there was nothing she could do but return to the practice courts to improve.

"I haven't really gotten that far yet," she said, when asked how long it would take to regain confidence after losing so badly at a Grand Slam."But I guess just go back on the practice court and that's really all you can do."

American Sloane Stephens, seeded 24th and a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park three years ago, had a very bad day at the office and was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Chinese qualifier Wang Qiang.

Italy's 17th seed Sara Errani also suffered an early exit, losing 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 to rising Russian talent Margarita Gasparyan.

Home favourite Samantha Stosur, seeded 25th, bowed out in the first round after being beaten 6-4, 7-6 (8/6) by the Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova.

In happier mood was 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, who beat Japan's Nao Hibino 6-1, 6-3 in just 73 minutes in her first match of the year after a forearm injury forced her out of the Brisbane International.

"I'm feeling really good, which is a positive. I'm just happy to finish off today and be able to get ready for the next one," said the Russian. - Wire Services.

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