DOHA • As tennis' world No. 1 Novak Djokovic cruised to victory in his first match of the new year, former top-ranked Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic endured a humbling start to the season.
The top two seeds were dumped out of the Auckland Classic in the first round by unheralded opponents yesterday.
Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina, ranked 75th in the world, claimed arguably the biggest win of her career in taking out seven- time Grand Slam singles champion Williams 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3 in the Australian Open warm-up event.
Williams, 35, made over 70 unforced errors, in a scratchy defence of the title she won last year to kick off an outstanding season that saw her claim the WTA's Comeback of the Year award after two other tournament wins in China.
Former French Open champion Ivanovic had little answer to the supreme serving of British qualifier Naomi Broady, who racked up 14 aces in a 7-5, 6-4 win.
The 25-year-old from Manchester maintained her first-serve percentage at almost 70 as she took out the second-seeded Serb to leave the US$250,000 (S$356,000) tournament shorn of its headline acts.
The Qatar Open has no such problems, with Djokovic needing just 51 minutes to beat German Dustin Brown 6-2, 6-2 in Doha on Monday.
He was rarely troubled as he progressed to the second round, putting on an ominous display for rivals looking for any early-season weaknesses from the Serb after his dominant 2015.
"It was a very good start," said the 10-time Grand Slam champion, noting that he was untroubled by the blustery and relatively cold weather in Doha, with temperatures reaching 17 deg C.
"Considering the weather conditions and everything, I think it was a good performance from my side.
"I played a player whom I never faced before and somebody who is a very charismatic guy and very good for tennis, for sport and somebody who is very unpredictable.
"He hasn't served particularly well today, which I think has helped me."
Djokovic said before the tournament started that he is in Doha to win and not merely play some warm-up matches before the defence of his Australian Open crown later this month.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE