Venus Williams knocked out in the first round of the Australian Open https://t.co/EA5Jp9lrnI— CNN International (@cnni) January 15, 2018
5th seed and 2017 runner-up Venus Williams, 10th seed CoCo Vandeweghe, 13th seed Sloane Stephens, Irina Falconi, Sofia Kenin, Jennifer Brady, Alison Riske, Taylor Townsend, CiCi Bellis--these women are all out of the Australian Open, defeated in the first round. Of the ten women from the USA who competed yesterday, only one--Nicole Gibbs--advanced to the second round.
The early departure of so many women from the USA was dramatic, especially considering that three of them were seeded rather high, and two of them were considered by some to be contenders for the title. Williams had the bad luck to draw Belinda Bencic, who has obviously fully recovered from surgery and rehab.
Bencic, the spiritual little sister of Martina Hingis (and formerly coached by Hingis's coach and real-life mother, Melanie Molitor) looked just wonderful as she neutralized much of Williams's estimable game. Bencic looks physically stronger now, which is going to come in handy as she navigates her way back through the rankings.
As for Vandeweghe and Stephens--they didn't really need opponents; they were fully skilled in defeating themselves. Vandeweghe, who apparently does not learn from experience, was passive aggressive, argumentative and inappropriate. But not to take anything away from her opponent, Timea Babos. Babos, unfortunately, is an inconsistent player, but she's "on," she's a threat to almost anyone. She was on yesterday, and might have won, regardless of Vandeweghe's antics.
Sloane Stephens is just back to "being Sloane." The U.S. Open champion hasn't won a match since she left Flushing Meadows. With Stephens, who knows how long this will last?
The next group of U.S. women to compete in the first round includes Lauren Davis, Madison Brengle, Kristie Ahn, Varvara Lepchenko, Madison Keys, and Shelby Rogers. 17th seed Madison Keys, the U.S. Open runner-up, faces Wang Qiang. Rogers, a big stage player who likes to pull off upsets, will play Mijana Lucic-Baroni. If Lucic-Baroni brings her best (always a question these days), this could be a really good match.
In other Australian Open news: Long-time Aussie star Sam Stosur was defeated in the opening round by Monica Puig, former semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova was defeated by Irina-Camelia Begu, and former runner-up Dominika Cibulkova lost to Kaia Kanepi.