The first major of the 2018 season is officially under way as the Australian Open is up and running at full force. The first round is in the books and the story has been big names going down early, especially ones of the Americans. Serena Williams withdrew from the Open due to the fact that she recently had a baby so in many ways we knew that an American was not going win this tournament on the men’s or women’s side. That being said, there are some talented American tennis players, so the expectation coming into the tournament was somewhat high. Boy have those expectations already been shattered. Let’s start with the women’s side with a tennis star in Venus Williams who came into the tournament as the 5th overall seed and some considered her as a favorite to win the whole thing. Her first round draw featured a 20-year-old form Switzerland, Belinda Bencic who was ranked just 7th in the world just 2 years ago. This was supposed to be a get in and get out for Venus and this mission of this match for Venus was to get adjusted to playing in her first major of the year. Bencic had other plans. Although Venus came up flat, Bencic was playing her best brand of tennis and it was evident that she was here to compete and shock the world with a 1st round shocker. Bencic took the first set 6-3 and the upset alert button had officially been hit. Although Williams put up some what of a fight in the second set, it was just not her day and she had been shocked by Belinda Bencic in straight sets, 6-3 7-5. As this was one of the first matches of the tournament, it had sent shock waves through the Australian Open community and the message was sent that if you do not show up to play, you will get upset.
We then move on to American CoCo Vandeweghe who came into this tournament as the 10th overall seed and had high hopes coming into this major. She would face Hungarian Tímea Babos who came in this match firing, hitting her spots early and often. Babos won the match in straight sets but if you watched the match, you could see that CoCo was all out off sorts the entire match. It began when she refused to get back on the court after there were no bananas ready on the court and she would not go on until a banana was brought to her so she could take a bite. She was handed a violation. Now I know it sounds silly but some players really stick to a routine and if their routine is tampered in any way, it could throw their whole game off.
Vandeweghe was then caught shouting expletives at her opponent and/or the officials for some reason and it was clear she was just a mess the entire night and her tournament is now over as the second major American women had been upset in a matter of days. But it’s okay though, right? We have Sloan Stephens who is coming off a U.S Open win and is coming into this tournament playing great tennis. Stephens came in as the 13th overall seed and would face Chinese tennis player, Zhang Shuai. Stephens dominated the 1st set 6-2, and we as American tennis fans could finally take a deep breath, at least we had Sloan. Wrong again. Stephens got cold and Zhang got hot and ended up winning the second set in lue of a tiebreaker. The third set was almost a must win for the Americans for a pride standpoint and it wasn’t even close. Zhang dominated the 3rd set 6-2 and had completed the comeback and the upset. Another American women had been upset and it started to look like we would have to rely on our men to perform in the first major of young year.
John Isner has been around for a while and has been for the most part successful. He is at the point at his career where he knows he is not talented enough to win a major, but has the talent to win some tournaments throughout the year and make a run in the majors. Isner came in as the 16th seed in this tournament and his first round draw matched him with a hometown favorite, Australian Matthew Ebden. The home crowd was obviously on his side and that played an impact on the match. Isner could not hit his spots especially late in the match for the life of him and Isner had been upset to the unranked Aussie in 4 sets. We than move on to the one male American tennis player who I thought could actually make a run in this tournament and perhaps make a the final, Jack Sock . Sock is young, tall and explosive and has turned into the face of male American tennis. Sock faced Yūichi Sugita in the first round and this FR matchup was in no way looked at to be interesting. Sugita had something to say about that as he came out with an energetic play style that made Sock look like he was sleeping on the job. Sock had been punched in the mouth and had found himself a set down and in dominating fashion as the first set was won, 6-1. Sock came back to win the second set in a tiebreaker but that was the only positive point in the match for the American, as he got shocked by the unranked player from Japan in 4 sets. The 8th overall seed was out and this completed a heartbreaking first round for American tennis players on both the men and women’s side. I can not remember a time where one country as a whole has preformed so poorly in the first round of a major tournament and it has become very VERY clear, American tennis has reached an all time low.