Seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams crashed out of the Madrid Open on Monday, as men’s top seed Novak Djokovic slammed tennis chiefs for not consulting players over a controversial new blue surface.
Wild-card Williams, 31, who is struggling to resurrect her career after a long injury and illness layoff, went down 6-4, 6-1 to German 12th seed Angelique Kerber in round two.
This year, autoimmune disease-sufferer Williams has pulled out of both the Australian Open and the Malaysian Open, before reaching the quarter-finals in Miami and Charleston.
Her sister Serena Williams went through 6-3, 6-1 in her opening match against Russia’s Elena Vesnina, despite the “early” start time of 11am.
“I always hate the early starts,” she said.
Reigning women’s champion Petra Kvitova kick-started her title defense with a 6-2, 6-3 defeat of New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic.
The third-seeded Wimbledon title-holder, who defeated Victoria Azarenka in straight sets to lift the trophy last year, made it into the second round in 67 minutes, firing five aces and producing 28 winners.
There was also smooth progress for China’s Li Na, who beat Spanish hope Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-3, 6-1, while US Open champion Samantha Stosur came from a set down to beat Christina McHale 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the second round.
Meanwhile, world No. 1 and men’s defending champion Djokovic fired a barb at tour chiefs over Madrid’s experimental blue-clay surface, adding that “all players” hoped it would not cause injuries.
“The hope of all players is that we won’t have injuries and have a decent week of tennis,” the Monte Carlo Masters finalist said.
Djokovic joined with Spain’s Rafael Nadal in criticizing ATP chiefs for a lack of consultation.
“The only disappointing thing from a player standpoint is that it was decided without players agreeing to it,” the Serb said. “Players should be agreeing to the change — there should be some value in what they say.”
In men’s play, Russian Mikhail Youzhny defeated local wild-card Javier Marti 6-3, 6-2, while Serb Viktor Troicki beat Donald Young of the US 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
Former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero went down to Russia’s Igor Andreev, while Ferrero’s compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ousted Marcos Baghdatis.