Belinda Bencic bundles Venus Williams out of Australian Open
Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic scores his first win in five matches against Venus Williams. AP

MELBOURNE, Australia — In her first match at the Australian Open since a Williams sister was guaranteed to win the title, Venus Williams lost in the first round to Belinda Bencic and ensured it cannot happen in 2018.

Venus lost last year's final at Melbourne Park to younger sibling Serena, who clinched an Open era-record 23rd major but hasn't played a Grand Slam tournament since because of her pregnancy and the birth of her first child.

The 6-3, 7-5 loss for Venus Williams was her first in five career meetings with Bencic, who lost to Serena Williams in the first round here last year.

It was a bleak opening day for American women, with US Open champion Sloane Stephens, No. 10-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe, a semifinalist here and at the US Open last year, and CiCi Bellis, the WTA's Newcomer of the Year, going out in the first round. The US women were 0 for 7 in first-round singles by mid-afternoon.

The 20-year-old Bencic saved five break points in the eighth game before a rain delay caused an almost half-hour suspension of play as the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena. She returned on a roll, winning the next six points to hold serve and then clinch the set.

Bencic teamed up with Roger Federer to win the Hopman Cup for Switzerland in the first week of the season, and had the 19-time major winner's parents in the crowd supporting her on Monday.

It must have helped, having overcome the surprise when the draw was made that she'd have to play another Williams in the first round.

"Honestly, the first reaction of everyone was 'Oh, bad luck.' But of course, it would be nice to play somebody easier first round and get your rhythm a little bit," Bencic said.

"It's amazing, when I was a little girl, I was watching them on TV. I never thought I'd get a chance to play them."

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Williams' exit followed No. 13-seeded Stephens' 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 loss to Zhang Shuai.

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