Kvitova, Errani and Vinci crumble in the first round of Australian Open

Monday January 13th, 2014

Luksika-Kumkhum-1 Thailand's Luksika Kumkhum upset No. 6 Petra Kvitova in the first round of the Australian Open. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- A day that began with minimal drama ended with a string of unforeseen upsets that rattled the top half of the women's draw.

No. 7 Sara Errani was upended by No. 73 Julia Goerges, 6-3, 6-2. Errani's doubles partner, No. 12 Roberta Vinci lost to No. 56 Zheng Jie 6-4, 6-3. Both seeds were in the same eighth of the draw, paving the way for a surprise quarterfinalist.

However, the biggest bracket buster came from a relative unknown, No. 88 Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand, who knocked out No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. They don't call it the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific for nothing.

Kumkhum, 20, came into the tournament with one victory in a Grand Slam main draw. She played the best match of her career, using the angles to pull Kvitova wide and get her on the run. She possesses a rare two-handed forehand but doesn't count the likes of Monica Seles or Marion Bartoli as inspirations. Her tennis idol, Tammy Tanasugarn, was a former top-20 player and the best Thailand has ever produced.

Calm and stone-faced throughout most of the match, Kumkhum finally let the enormity of the moment sink in after breaking Kvitova in the third set to 5-3. The vocal Australian crowd backed the underdog and the nerves set in when she served for the match, double-faulting twice before finally closing it with a well-placed angled backhand that Kvitova could only stab at.

"Like your heart shakes," Kumkhum said, explaining her nerves. "First time that I play No. 6. Up 5‑3. Yeah, sometimes you're scared a little bit."

As Kumkhum smiled and laughed through the flurry of "getting to know you" type questions in her press conference, it was a more somber scene in Kvitova's. The erratic Czech's unpredictability is predictable. She blamed her performance on the nerves that come with expectation and pressure, which were exacerbated by the excitement of playing at the first Grand Slam of the year. In her trademark broken English, she explained, "I think that probably I wanted too much, and then everything just fell down."

Kvitova said her offseason focus was movement and improving her serve, two things that completely failed her.

"I really didn't move well," she said. "So I think from that it's everything connected."

With Errani, Vinci and Kvitova out of the tournament, the draw opens up in two critical sections. Errani and Vinci were the top two seeds in their section, which creates a big opportunity for both Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys. No. 18 Kirsten Flipkens is top remaining seed in that section, and the player who gets out of it could face Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Kvitova was the second-highest seed in Li Na's quarter of the draw, and her exit now paves the way for No. 9 Angelique Kerber to make the quarterfinals. She's the highest seed left in that section, and the next highest-ranked player is No. 29 Flavia Pennetta.

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