Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 16th 2018 Contents sports A61
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Venus, Stephens meltdown in Melbourne
MELBOURNE, Australia—U.S. Open
champion Sloane Stephens was first
to go, followed quickly by last year’s
Australian Open runner-up, Venus
CoCo Vandeweghe went out next
as things really started to go crazy
for the U.S. women, who eventu-
ally lost nine out of 10 first-round
matches on a bleak opening day of
the Australian Open.
Four months after American
women filled all four semifinal spots
at the U.S. Open — for the first time
in 36 years — three of them are out of
contention at the next Grand Slam.
Yesterday’s major letdown was
compounded when eighth-seeded
Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner
joined the procession of U.S. first-
In her first match at Rod Laver
Arena since a vintage run in 2017
ended in a championship loss to sis-
ter Serena, Venus Williams lost her
opener to Belinda Bencic 6-3, 7-5
to ensure the title won’t stay in the
Serena Williams hasn’t played a
Grand Slam tournament since win-
ning her 23rd major in Australia last
year because of her pregnancy and
the birth of her first child.
Fifth-seeded Venus was consid-
ered a serious contender in her 77th
major to break a Grand Slam title
drought dating back to 2008.
Bencic, who had never taken a set
off Venus in four previous matches
and had lost to Serena in the first
round last year, had other ideas.
“I think I had a little bit too much
respect, played a little bit careful and
safe,” Bencic said of her four previ-
ous losses to Venus. “This time I re-
ally tried to come out and hit it big.”
Bencic saved five break points in
the eighth game before a rain delay
caused an almost half-hour suspen-
sion of play as the roof was closed on
Rod Laver Arena. She returned on a
roll, winning the next six points to
clinch the first set, and then domi-
nated the second.
Venus had 26 unforced errors and
22 winners, and said she didn’t get
the luck of the draw by having to
play somebody who has been ranked
as high as No. 7.
“I don’t think I played a bad match.
She just played above and beyond,”
Williams said. “I just have to give her
credit for that.”
The 20-year-old Bencic, who was
born a couple of months after the
last time there was no Williams in
the second round at the Australian
Open (1997), hit 32 winners, had 12
unforced errors and converted five
of 11 break-point chances.
She credited playing with Roger
Federer at the Hopman Cup — where
they teamed up to win for Swit-
zerland — with helping her recent
improvement. Having Federer’s par-
porting her in the crowd also
Stephens was the first Amer-
ican to falter, losing 2-6, 7-6
(2), 6-2 to No. 34-ranked Zhang
Shuai to extend her losing
streak since the U.S. Open to
eight matches. (AP)
YESTERDAY’S AUSTRALIAN OPEN
WEATHER: Mostly sunny, high of 21 Celsius (70
ATTENDANCE: Day: 48,149; Night: 24,104;
SEEDED MEN’S WINNERS: No. 1 Rafael Nadal,
No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 6 Marin Cilic, No.
10 Pablo Carreno Busta, No. 15 Jo-Willfried
Tsonga, No. 17 Nick Kyrgios, No. 23 Gilles Mul-
ler, No. 24 Diego Schwartzman, No. 28 Damir
Dzumhur, No. 30 Andrey Rublev, No. 31 Pablo
SEEDED MEN’S LOSERS: No. 8 Jack Sock, No.
11 Kevin Anderson, No. 16 John Isner, No. 18
Lucas Pouille, No. 27 Philipp Kohlschreiber.
SEEDED WOMEN’S LOSERS: No. 5 Venus Wil-
liams, No. 10 CoCo Vandeweghe, No. 13
Sloane Stephens, No. 24 Dominika Cibulkova,
No. 25 Peng Shuai, No. 31 Ekaterina Makarova.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It was a tough day, and this
is a tough sport. This isn’t an indication of any-
thing except we have a lot of depth and we had
a bad day” — Nicole Gibbs, the lone American
FEATURED MATCHES TUESDAY: Defending cham-
pion Roger Federer vs. Aljaz Bedene; No. 1
Simona Halep vs. Destanee Aiava; No. 3 Gar-
bine Muguruza vs. Jessika Ponchet; No. 4
Alexander Zverev vs. Thomas Fabbiano; No.
14 Novak Djokovic vs. Donald Young; Maria
Sharapova vs. Tatjana Maria.
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