MELBOURNE – Little-known Thai Luksika Kumkhum wrote her name in lights and outshone Li Na’s winning start with a sensational upset of sixth seed Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open yesterday.
Luksika, whose best-ever performance was reaching the Kuala Lumpur quarter-finals last year, shrugged off the pressure of her first match against a top 10 player.
With vocal backing from the Australian crowd, Luksika downed the 2011 Wimbledon champion 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 to record the biggest upset of Day One.
“I’m very excited to beat the No 6 player in the world,” said Luksika.
“Today is a great day for me, I am very happy.” As a gauge of the 20-year-old’s recent form, she had failed to get through qualifying at both the Shenzhen Open and the Sydney International in the build-up to Melbourne.
Luksika also reached the second round in Melbourne last year and said the crowd support had helped her to victory. “I think it helped very much,” she said. “I just tried to play like I have nothing to lose, just played my best.”
Luksika’s win overshadowed a routine victory by China’s Li, who trounced reigning girls’ champion Ana Konjuh 6-2, 6-0 to get her title bid underway.
Li has twice lost the Australian Open final, including last year when she injured her ankle and blacked out during the title match against Victoria Azarenka.
“I always love coming to Melbourne,” she said. “I’m feeling good and feeling healthy.”
Vinci sent packing
China’s Zheng Jie also upset Italian 12th seed Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-3, but Zhang Shuai lost to Germany’s Mona Barthel. Meanwhile, veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, 43, went out to a player 27 years her junior in Belinda Bencic, 16.