Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's a Terrible Day for the US as Venus Is Eclipsed and Coco Goes Bananas

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's a Terrible Day for the US as Venus Is Eclipsed and Coco Goes Bananas

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Newman in Melbourne

VENUS WILLIAMS, Sloane Stephens and Jack Sock had memorable seasons in 2017 but on a dreadful first day for Americans at the Australian Open all three went out.

Williams, who reached the final here before losing to her sister Serena 12 months ago and was also runner-up at Wimbledon, was beaten 6-3, 7-5 by Switzerland's Belinda Bencic, while Stephens, the reigning US Open champion, went down 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 to China's Zhang Shuai. Sock, who capped a memorable 2017 by reaching the semifinals on his debut at the ATP Finals in London, was beaten 6-1, 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 by Japan's Yuichi Sugita.

The trio were not the only prominent Americans to make early exits. Coco Vandeweghe, a semi-finalist here and at Wimbledon last year, lost a bad-tempered contest against Timea Babos 7-6, 6-2 and John Isner, the world No16, slumped to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 defeat against Australia's Matthew Ebden.

This was Venus Williams' 18th Australian Open, the 37-year-old having made her debut in 1998, when Bencic was just 10 months old.

Bencic, now 20, is ranked No78 in the world after injuries disrupted her 2017 campaign, but she is a former top-10 player and said she had benefited from the experience of partnering Roger Federer to victory in the Hopman Cup mixed-team event in the first week of this year. Federer's parents watched her match here from the player box.

Williams had won all four of her previous meetings with Bencic but the world No5 could not match her opponent's consistent ball striking.

"I think I had a little bit too much respect, played a bit careful and safe," Bencic said of her previous meetings with Williams. "This time I really tried to come out and hit it big."

Williams said: "I don't think I played a bad match. She just played above and beyond. I just have to give her credit."

Stephens has lost all eight matches she has played since winning her first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows last year. …

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