Belinda Bencic dumps Venus Williams in Australian Open first round upset

Belinda Bencic has sent an early shockwave through the Australian Open by dumping last year's finalist Venus Williams out of the first round with an impressive 6-3, 7-5 win at Rod Laver Arena.

The 20-year-old Swiss played the 37-year-old American great to perfection, soaking up the fifth seed's firepower and attacking her wavering serve with abandon.

In a tense grand slam opener that felt more like a final, Williams battled to keep touch in an enthralling second set, but Bencic unleashed two blazing forehand winners to close out the match in the 12th game.

The resurgent Bencic will meet the winner of Johanna Larsson and Luksika Kumkhum in the next round.

Earlier in the day, Sloane Stephens bowed out of the Australian Open at the first hurdle, having not won a single match since her US Open breakthrough triumph.

Stephens looked to be on course for a form-correcting win over China's Zhang Shuai, breezing through the first set, but ultimately found the going too tough in a 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 loss on Margaret Court Arena.

The American was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, only for world-number-34 Zhang to hit back and win in a tie-break, setting up her third-set assault.

Since her win over Madison Keys in the Flushing Meadows decider, Stephens has now lost gone through a horrible winless run, losing four matches in three tournaments in China, falling short in both her ties in the Fed Cup final under US colours, as well as a first-round exit at the Sydney International.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko got her Australian Open campaign off to the perfect start, however, beating Italy's Francesca Schiavone in straight sets.

Ostapenko, the first Latvian to win a grand slam after last year's heroics at Roland Garros, breezed past the 2010 French Open winner 6-1 in the first set, before fighting to take out the second set 6-4, in a match that lasted just under 75 minutes.

Ostapenko will meet the winner of China's Ying-Ying Duan, who beat Colombia's Mariana Duque-Marino inside an hour 6-0, 6-1.

German 12th seed Julia Georges was similarly untroubled, advancing to the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 win over USA's Sofia Kenin.

France's Alize Cornet eased past Chinese wildcard 6-4, 6-2, while Slovakia's Magdelena Rybarikova beat American Taylor Townsend 6-0, 7-5.

International women's results

  • Belinda Bencic (SWI) def Venus Williams (USA) 6-3, 7-5
  • Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) def Francesca Schiavone (ITA) 6-1, 6-4
  • Zhang Shuai (CHN) def Sloane Stephens (USA) 2-6, 7-6, 6-2
  • Julia Goerges (GER) def Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-4, 6-4
  • Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) def Taylor Townsend (USA) 6-0, 7-5
  • Ying-Ying Duan (CHN) def Mariana Duque-Marina (COL) 6-0, 6-1
  • Mona Barthel (GER) def Monica Niculescu (ROM) 6-4, 7-5
  • Alize Cornet (FRA) def Xinyu Wang (CHN) 6-4, 6-2
  • Petra Martic (CRO) def Alison van Uytvanck 7-6, 6-3
  • Timea Babos (HUN) def CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) 7-6, 6-2
  • Kaia Kanepi (EST) def Dominika Cibulkova (SLO) 6-2, 6-2
  • Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) def Alison Riske (USA) 6-2, 6-7, 6-3
  • Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM) def Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 3-6, 6-4, 8-6
  • Kiki Bertens (NED) def Catherine Bellis (USA) 6-7, 6-4, 6-2
  • Denisa Allertova (CZE) def Pauline Parmentier (FRA) 6-3, 6-0
  • Anett Kontaveit (EST) def Aleksandra Krunic (SER) 6-4, 7-5
  • Magda Linette (POL) def Jennifer Brady (USA) 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
  • Katerina Siniakova (CZE) def Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-2, 6-7, 6-4