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Australian Open: Venus Williams’ conquerer Belinda Bencic loses to Thai qualifier

The 20-year-old Swiss, Belinda Bencic, saved three match points on her serve before netting a backhand to give No. 124th-ranked Luksika Kumkhum a spot in the third round.

By: AP | Melbourne | Published: January 17, 2018 1:16 pm
Belinda Bencic in action against Luksika Kumkhum at Australian Open Belinda Bencic went down in straight sets in the second round. (Source: Reuters)

Two days after her upset win over Venus Williams, Belinda Bencic is out of the Australian Open. Bencic was on a high after beating 2017 finalist Williams on the center court in the first round, but started flatly on Hisense Arena on Wednesday and lost 6-1, 6-3 to powerful hitting Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum.

The 20-year-old Swiss, who combined with Roger Federer to win the Hopman Cup in the lead-up to the season’s first major, saved three match points on her serve before netting a backhand to give No. 124th-ranked Kumkhum a spot in the third round for the first time.

“I tried to reset and focus on the next match,” Bencic said. “I think it was also a very tough second round, for me the toughest I could get. I played her a couple of times and it’s just very difficult for me to play her.

“I’m pretty positive. … I made it here to the main draw, beat Venus. It was much better than I ever imagined, so there is no reason for me to be negative now.”

Fifteen-year-old qualifier Marta Kostyuk and No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina were among three Ukrainian women who had matches starting simultaneously on Day 3 – and all progressed to the third round.

Former Australian junior champion Kostyuk, who entered the season-opening major ranked No. 521, followed up her first-round win over 25th-seeded Peng Shuai with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over wild-card entry Olivia Rogowska.

Kostyuk already is the youngest player since Martina Hingis in 1996 to win a main-draw match at the year’s opening major. And that came after three three-set matches in qualifying over six hours.

She’s already guaranteed around $143,000 for her run at Melbourne Park, way more money than she’s ever earned.

Kostyuk is managed by Ivan Ljubicic, who works with Federer, and so gets the benefit of some first-rate analysis.

“Ivan is always helping me … after every match, he’s telling me what’s wrong,” she said, smiling, after she framed a wayward serve on her first match point and earlier got a code violation for coaching when the umpire ruled she had communicated with her mother in the crowd.

Kostyuk’s progress is set to become more difficult, with a meeting against Svitolina in the next round.

While Kostyuk was playing on Margaret Court Arena, Svitolina, who won a tour-leading five titles in 2017, had a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Katerina Siniakova on the adjoining Rod Laver Arena.

Their fellow Ukrainian, Kateryna Bondarenko, beat No. 15-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3 in the day’s opening match on Melbourne Park’s third show court to reach the third round here for the third time.

No. 19 Magdalena Rybarikova beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.

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