US Open champion Stephens crashes out in Sydney

US Open champion Sloane Stephens' preparations for the Australian Open hit a speed bump yesterday when she was bundled out of the Sydney International first round by Italy's Camila Giorgi.

Stephens, who has not played since last November's Fed Cup final, looked rusty against the big-hitting Giorgi and made 35 unforced errors as she lost 6-3, 6-0 to the 26-year-old in just over an hour.

World No. 13 Stephens has not won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final at Flushing Meadows in September.

She lost both singles encounters in the Fed Cup against Belarus, lost twice in the WTA Elite Trophy event in Wuhai and suffered first-round losses in two tournaments in China.

Giorgi will now meet either two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or last year's surprise Australian Open semi-finalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the second round.

The Australian Open, the opening Grand Slam of the year, runs from Jan 15-28. - REUTERS