Venus Williams’ Australian Open campaign has come to an abrupt halt with the 10th seed falling 2-6 6-0 9-7 to Bulgarian teenager Tszvetana Pironkova in the opening round.
The 2003 runner-up at the tournament capitulated, despite a positive start, after amassing a vast 65 unforced errors.
Williams looked in control at the start of the match, hitting her way to a one-set lead.
However, Pironkova soon wrestled her way back into the contest and had no trouble dispatching her opponent’s usually tough service game on the way to levelling the match.
The deciding set then shaped into a raging battle as neither player could get the edge as long rallies ensued.
The Bulgarian, playing her first-ever Grand Slam match, took the edge and at one point was serving for the match before Williams rallied her way back into the contest.
But the 18-year-old got the decisive break to take the match after an 86-minute marathon set.
Julia Schruff had caused the first major upset of the event with the German prematurely ending the title hopes of number nine seed Elena Dementieva 7-5 6-2.
Schruff, who knocked Australian Jelena Dokic out of the first round at the ASB Classic in Auckland last week, was in fine form again.
Dementieva was at times her own worst enemy as she double faulted 12 times on her way to the shock loss.
Both players battled hard in the opening set before Schruff took it after capitalising on a whopping 37 unforced errors from the usually composed Russian.
From there it was all downhill for the 2004 US Open finalist as the young German closed in on the match, taking out the second set 6-2 in just over 30 minutes.
She now plays either Russia’s Elena Vesnina or China’s Ting Li.
Top-seed Lindsay Davenport opened her campaign with an easy 6-2 6-1 victory over the host country’s Casey Dellacqua.
The towering American turned in a somewhat rusty performance but still wasted little time as she romped home in two sets.
Davenport will now meet either Ukraine’s Alyona Bondarenko or Croatian Karolina Sprem in the second round.
The number one seed started in the best possible manner, the former champion breaking her opponent’s first service game.
Dellacqua could then do little but watch as Davenport capitalised on her numerous unforced errors to progress in just 57 minutes.
Davenport clinched seized the first set and quickly went about dismantling Dellacqua in the second. The first service break of the set came in the fourth game as the American ran away with the match.