Rafael Nadal of Spain / AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI
It was a bad day for the large contingent of American players on opening day in Melbourne Park, as fifth-seeded Venus Williams suffered an upset defeat by Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. Eleven other American male and female players crashed out, while only three survived the tsunami on tennis arena.
However, the 2016 finalist and world number one, Rafael Nadal marched on with a 6/1;/6/1;/6/1 victory over compatriot Victor Estrelli Burgos.
Venus Williams was the first seeded player to be sent packing. It could have been a routine first round match for Venus. Her opponent had come to Melbourne after Hopman Cup tune-up where she and Roger Federer clinched the deciding Mixed Doubles Match. It was reported that before the contest Bencic had considered the match-up an “ill-luck of the Draw” because she had lost all previous four matches to Venus Williams.
In the first set, Bencic served first and held the game for a 1-0 lead. Games proceeded with serve in the first six games. In tennis, players are taught to focus hard on the odd games. In the seventh game, Venus saved a break point but lost her serve. Serving to consolidate the lead, Belinda cancelled five break points and the game got to deuce. At that moment, mother- nature sent down a slight drizzle and play was halted for the roof to close in Rod Laver Arena.
The interruption lasted twenty minutes and reversed the momentum in favour of the Swiss player. At the resumption of play, Belinda delivered an ace serve and followed with a backhand winner to pocket the game for a 5-3 lead. Venus did not win a point on her serve as she lost the game and set 6-3.
Venus took a locker room break. She returned to court swinging and immediately broke the Swiss player’s serve. She was, however, unable to extend the lead as both players lost two consecutive service games. In the eighth game, Venus faced break point but saved it. Belinda held serve to lead 6-5. Venus needed to win her serve to stay in the match. Venus faced a break point after a forehand winner from Bencic who sealed the victory with another winner from the baseline. The 20-year old Swiss delivered 32 outright winners to Venus Williams’ 22 and she committed 12 unforced errors to her opponent’s 26. Indeed, tennis matches are lost, not won.
Many players from the United States lost in the opening day frist round matches. They included the 2016 semi-finalist Coco van deweghe, Jack Sock and hard-serving John Isner. The shocking defeat of the 2016 US Open Champion, Sloane Stephens generated concerns about first Grand Slam blues because, over the years, such winners did not follow up on the first major tile success.