Bencic bundled out

  • Michael Beattie
  • Getty Images

Just two days after dispatching last year’s finalist Venus Williams in the first round, Belinda Bencic suffered her own shock defeat at the hands of qualifier Luksika Kumkhum, who booked her place in the third round of a major for the first time with a comprehensive 6-1 6-3 victory.

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Tennis is a game of match-ups, and Kumkhum turned out to be the wrong opponent for big-swinging Bencic, whose 16-match winning streak was halted in its tracks. The Thai 24-year-old, who plays double-handed ground strokes off both wings, returned with interest throughout the contest, picking her moments to pull the trigger and mixing things up with angles, slice and 13 net approaches, claiming the point on all but three occasions.
“It’s the first time that I’ve reached the third round,” said Kumkhum, who will face either Petra Martic or Irina-Camelia Begu for a place in the last 16. “I kept telling my coach and family I’m trying so hard to pass the second round, so I’m so happy.”

Under the early afternoon sun on Hisense, it was Kumkhum who stumbled at the start of the match, Bencic breaking to 15 in the opening game. But two double faults in the next game handed the world No.124 a route back, before back-to back errors prompted Bencic to chuck her racquet and opened the door for Kumkhum to jump out to a 3-1 lead.
Worse was to come for the Swiss, who saw three break points come and go before giving up a third successive break. She finally held at the start of the second set and briefly led 2-0, but Kumkhum powered back, converting her fifth break point of a marathon 22-point fifth game when Bencic flashed a forehand into the tramlines.

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The Thai’s slice proved particularly problematic for Bencic, who cracked her racquet in frustration while slipping 0-40 down when serving to stay in the match. She dug in to level at deuce, but back-to-back backhands into the net sealed her fate.
With that, Kumkhum becomes the first Thai woman to reach the third round at Melbourne Park since Tamarine Tanasugarn in 2003.