Down and Out Down Under-US Seeds Including Venus Williams, Stephens, Vandeweghe, Sock, Isner Fall on Day One of Australian Open
(January 15, 2018)Seeded players from the United States were down and out, down under on the first day of the Australian Open, the first tennis major tournament of the year.
Defending finalist and fifth seeded Venus Williams bowed out to No. 78 in the world Belinda Bencic 6-3, 7-5. It’s the Swiss’ first victory over the 37-year-old seven-time major champion in five tries. Bencic who had been sidelined with a wrist injury has an 18-match win streak mostly in challenger events. Her last match win on the main tour came at the 2015 Rogers Cup event in Canada.
The 20-year-old fresh off of pairing with Roger Federer at the Hopman Cup mixed-team event where Switzerland won the title. Federer’s parents were in the crowd supporting Bencic.
“It was amazing, this match,” Bencic said to media. “I think the level was great. Also, you know, she beat me four times before, so I was really happy, took my chance this time.
“ Yeah, obviously just happy to be back playing. It was a very, very long time when I was out. I couldn’t wait to come back, so it means a lot.”
“I think I was thinking a lot about the last matches. For the first matches, I think I had a little bit too much respect, played a little bit careful and safe.
“This time I really tried to come out and, you know, hit it big. Also tactically be smart on the court. It’s really tough to play her. You really have to be on the limit of your game. You have to come out with everything you have. I tried to do that today.”
“I think she played well,” said Williams. “I don’t think I played a bad match. She just played above and beyond. I just have to give her credit for that.”
“Last year is last year. This is, like, a new year. You can’t live in the previous year. It’s impossible.”
“She played really well. I think she started out with an ace, another winner. There was nothing I could do there. She just played amazing.”
Reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens was the first seed put on the casualty list. The 13th seed lost to 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 to Zhang Shuai in her opener at Melbourne Park. Stephens, who has not won a match since winning the US Open, served for the match at 6-2, 5-4, but failed to close it out.
“I came out a little bit slow in the first couple games of the second, but I got it back. I think she raised her level and she played a good match, as well,” Stephens said. It’s just unfortunate.”
“Not going to get too down. Just going to stay positive and keep working to get back in the best shape and best place possible to do well for my next tournaments.”
Asked about losing eight straight matches since the US Open, the American responded: :”I wouldn’t call them tough times. Everyone is so depressed and so down. It happens to everyone. Like, eventually I’ll start, what I told you in D.C., I’m going to beat someone eventually. I will have the best Instagram picture when I finally snap this losing streak.
“Yeah, it’s not tough times. It’s just a learning experience. You know, it’s a long journey. Like I said, this year, it’s a new year, only the second tournament of the year. It’s a long road and long season ahead.”
“Well, I just felt like the offseason was really short. Obviously going and playing Fed Cup you didn’t get as much time as you normally do. I think that’s taken a toll.
“Like I said, it’s a new season. Luckily there is time to get in the best shape and, you know, make sure that I’m ready for my next tournaments. I think I just am kind of working to get ready, match ready and everything.”
“Tennis is definitely a roller coaster. But I have learned to just not panic. It will be okay. There’s always going to be times when it’s really tough and there will be times when you’re on an extreme high. I think for me now it’s not that great, but it’s nothing to panic about, guys.”
CoCo Vandeweghe also joined the list of US upsets when she lost to Timea Babos 7-6(4), 6-2. The 10th seed who reached the semifinals of Australia last year, joined two other US Open semifinalists Williams and Stephens on the sidelines.
Vandeweghe was charged with code violations, one for taking too much time between the changeover, waiting for a banana to be brought to her on court and unsportsmanlike conduct when she used profane language.
She sad to media: ““I was just trying to wait for what I asked for to come and the chair umpire deemed that it wasn’t a good enough reason,”
Other American ladies losing included Sofia Kenin who lost to No. 12 seed Julia Goerges, CiCi Bellis who fell to No. 30 seed Kiki Bertens, Alison Riske who lost in three sets to Kirsten Flipkens, and Taylor Townsend to No. 19 seed Magdalena Rybarikova.
US women were 1-9 on the day.
On the men’s side, eighth seed Jack Sock, the highest US seed was also a victim of the upset bug losing 6-1, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3 to Yuichi Sugita,
Sixteenth seed John Isner lost to Australian Matt Ebden in four sets. Ryan Harrison has the only win for a US seeded man on day one, beating Israel’s Dudi Sela in five sets.
“I feel great,” said Ebden. “Yeah, I’m obviously very excited just at the level I was able to produce again on the match court. It’s what it has been a bit about for me in the last, well, six to eight months at least. I’ve been playing that level now for a while. Just been working to maintain and even improve on that day in, day out.
“Yeah, to find another little extra gear within myself out there with the crowd, you know, with the energy on the court, in the matches, yeah, it’s a great feeling.”
“no. I’m not surprised at all. Of course, I don’t know how to say, expect to win. But I know if I execute and do the things that I was trying to do, yeah, I would give myself a good shot at winning. Probably the same as he was thinking.
“It’s the same with all the guys. I’m getting used to now playing always top, top level of myself and against these guys who can play the same level. Winning against them often now, losing sometimes, but still being just about there winning those matches also.
“I know the level that I can play and maintain now consistently. I’ve got to keep working every day basically on all the little things to make that happen. It doesn’t just happen by itself. Can’t lapse even for more than maybe a day off here or there. Got to keep things rolling at a very high level to maintain that.”
No. 1 Rafael Nadal, back to wearing sleeveless shirts, had no problems beating Victor Estrella Burgos. The 16-time major champion won 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. Australian Nick Kyrgios beat Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.