It was a day to forget for American competitors at the Australian Open on Monday, most of whom were sent packing early.
In all, 12 Americans lost their first-round matches in Melbourne on day one, including both the men’s and women’s top US seeds Venus Williams and Jack Sock.
As if that wasn’t enough, US Open champion Sloane Stephens saw her horror-run continue with yet another first-round defeat, while top 10 player Coco Vandeweghe made headlines for all the wrong reasons as she joined the exodus.
Williams came up against 20-year-old Belinda Bencic, who was ranked as high as seventh in the world two years ago but now finds herself down in 78th place after missing five months last year as the result of left wrist surgery.
Bencic has been quietly growing in confidence since her comeback, recently helping Roger Federer to win the Hopman Cup, and she looked very impressive as she upset World No 5 Williams 6-3, 7-5.
”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.”
As for eighth-seeded Sock, he came up Japan’s Yūichi Sugita and came off second best, going down 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-3.
Sugita is ranked outside the world’s top 40 but did earn his maiden ATP Tour title win last year, a few months shy of his 29th birthday.
The Tokyo resident is playing some of the best tennis of his career, and proved too hot for Sock to handle.
The carnage continued as reigning US Open champ Sloane Stephens extended her nightmare run of results with a 2-6, 6-6 (7-2), 6-2 defeat against dangerous Chinese contender Zhang Shuai.
Since winning at Flushing Meadows, Stephens’ career has seemingly been in free fall. The loss to Zhang marked her eighth defeat in a row in all competitions.
Stephens must be wondering how she can turn things around, but Zhang clearly wasn’t interested in offering any answers.
Perhaps the worst American loss of the day was the one suffered by 10th seed Coco Vandeweghe.
The 26-year-old entered this year’s competition with a career-high ranking, but her Australian Open dream turned into a nightmare during an ill-tempered and contentious 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 loss to Hungary’s Timea Babos.
Vandeweghe fought with umpire Fergus Murphy at the end of the first set after he called time and she remained in her chair to wait for a banana to be delivered.
“I’m waiting for the bananas,” she told Murphy when asked why she wasn’t ready to play. “Why should I feel uncomfortable because the court is ill-prepared?”
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 15, 2018
After around another minute a banana arrived, but Vandeweghe was hit with a code violation for delaying the match. That resulted in a point penalty to start the second set.
It got even worse for Vandeweghe in the second set, as she was hit with another point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct while trailing 1-5.
After tossing her racket, the 26-year-old appeared to scream obscenities toward Babos.
— bridge (@bridgesuite) January 15, 2018
Afterwards, Vandeweghe attributed her poor performance to a bout of flu.
“(Today) was the first time I’ve been up in like four days,” she said. “I did the best that I could.”
One thing is certain: After a day like this one, most American tennis fans will no doubt be praying for Serena Williams’ safe return.