Australian Open Update: Americans have disastrous week
The field in Australia is starting to narrow down and the legitimate contenders are starting to surface. On the women’s side the first week saw many big names go down. Though the men’s side has had more stability it too had its share of surprises. Here are the three noteworthy occurrences in week one.
Americans drop like files
The American women were dominate at the U.S. Open. Four of the semifinalists were American. At the Aussie Open, three of those finalists went out within three hours of each other. Defending U.S. Open Champion Sloane Stephens continued her woes, when she lost a three-set match to China’s Zhang Shuai. Stephens was in complete control and even served for the match in the second set. However, she got tight, Zhang started to play better, and the rest is history.
Following in Sloane’s footsteps was Venus Williams, last year’s Aussie Open finalist, who lost in straight sets to former top ten player Belinda Bencic. Many believed Bencic would give Venus trouble, despite her losing record to her, because of the great play displayed by Belinda in the past few weeks. Bencic did not disappoint and pretty much controlled the match against Venus from start to finish.
Right after Venus lost, Coco Vandeweghe followed suit and lost her match in straight set lost to Timea Babos, of Hungary. This was a bit of an odd lost considering Coco ended last season well by clinching Fed Cup for the U.S. This was supposed to be the year Coco made the next step but that was not to be the case in Australia. After the match it was reported that Vandeweghe was battling the flu.
But the losses were not exclusive to the women. American men, who have struggled in the grand slams, also saw their fair of trouble with their top two players Jock Sock and John Isner, losing in their opening rounds. Jack had an up and down season last year but ended the season well by winning his first Masters 1000 and qualifying for the World Tour Finals in London. It was a bad omen when Sock lost in the opening round in Auckland, a warm-up tournament where he was the defending champion.
Despite the massive losses by the Americans, there are two left. Madison Keys is in dominant form, blowing her way through her opponents to make the quarterfinals. On the men’s side, American Tennys Sandgren has come from obscurity to the spotlight with his epic wins. Sandgren defeated fifth seed Dominic Thiem in a thrilling five-set match to become the first American man since Andy Roddick to reach the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. Sandgren also beat 2014 Australian Open Champion Stan Wawrinka.
Top WTA players go down.
Going into the Australia Open, most experts lamented how open the women’s field is. Most of them said that at least 20 women could win. The first week was proof of this claim. Many of the top names went out in week one to lower ranked players. Grand slam champions such as Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko and the Venus Williams all went out.
Then there were other top players like Johana Konta, Dominika Cibulkova and Julia Goerges, whom many believed could win it all, lost early. The first week was not kind to seeded players. But despite all the losses many of the top ten players remain.
The top two seeds, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, both escaped tough matches where they faced match points. Wozniacki came back from a 1-5 deficit in the second round. Halep survived a marathon 3 set match against American Lauren Davis that saw a final set end at the score of 15-13. Since those close encounters both have looked good and might seem on course to meet in the finals
Other top players such as Elina Svitolina and former Aussie Open Champion Angelique Kerber are playing well and could also the victor in a couple of days.
*Svitolina lost in the quarterfinals, continuing the list of major upsets.
Men’s side stays relatively on course
Until the fourth round, the men’s side for the most part was on par. Then 21-year-old Hyeon Chung of South Korea decided to make another splash and defeat six-time Australian Open Novak Djokovic in straight sets. In the previous round Chung took out his Next Gen peer, Sascha Zverev in five sets.
Rafa and Roger, the number one and two seed and last year’s finalists, seemed to be heading to another major final showdown. Both have played well. Other losing a set to a determined Diego Schwartzman, it’s been smooth sailing. Roger has yet to drop a set and appears ready to win his 20th grand slam.
Grigor Dimitrov also deserves a mention. Dimitrov came into Aussie Open with some question marks but he has answered them. Dimitrov beat two quality opponents in Andrey Rublev and Nick Kyrgios to reach the quarterfinals. Dimitrov’s quality of tennis is improving round by round so there is no reason why he can’t find a way to use his all court game to win his first major.
The final days of the Australian Open will be interesting to see. With the door being wide open for any player on the WTA to walk through, who will be the one to do It? On the men’s side, will it be Roger and Rafa again or will some other player stop what seems to be an inevitable collision? Only way to know is to stay tuned.