Zhang packs off Stephens, CoCo goes bananas

Reuters
Zhang Shuai pulls off an upset win in the opening round of the Australian Open while American 10th seed CoCo Vandeweghe loses the plot over a lack of bananas. 
Reuters
Reuters

China's Zhang Shuai reacts after beating US Open champion Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Monday.

CoCo Vandeweghe’s petulant standoff over a shortage of bananas was the low point on a horror day for the United States at the Australian Open on Monday as a procession of American players skidded out of the season’s first grand slam in the first round.

A miserable day session for America saw US Open champion Sloane Stephens, seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams, men’s 16th seed John Isner and eighth seed Jack Sock, the highest ranked US player in the men’s draw, exit the tournament.

The evening brought little relief, with defeats for Irina Falconi and Kevin King bringing the tally to 12 Americans sent packing out of the 15 in first-round action.

Vandeweghe was given two code violations during her stormy 7-6(4), 6-2 defeat by Hungarian Timea Babos at the Hisense Arena. The first came after she refused to restart play at the end of the first set until a ball-kid delivered her bananas.

“How are they not on court? I mean, come on, that’s not my fault,” she said during an argument with the chair umpire.

“Why do I have to play under a different set of rules? I don’t have to make myself uncomfortable because it’s ill prepared. I have needs and it’s not my fault that this court is ill prepared.”

The American was docked a point toward the end of the second set after appearing to curse at 51st-ranked Babos.

Vandeweghe told reporters she was not happy about Babos getting “in her face” but the Hungarian denied trying to rile her up.

“She always does that (loses her temper),” Babos said. “A couple of rackets are broken every match, this time it was I believe a time violation, but I’m not sure.

“The second one I believe was an insult against me. If the umpire heard it then it must have been this.”

Vandeweghe became the third of four American women who made the semifinals at last year’s US Open to fall at the first hurdle at Melbourne Park.

US Open champion Stephens, the 13th seed, was bundled out in three sets by China’s Zhang Shuai. It was her eighth successive defeat since her maiden grand slam triumph.

Fifth seed Williams, who lost last year’s final at Melbourne Park to her sister Serena, was beaten in two sets by resurgent Swiss Belinda Bencic.

Venus praised her opponent for playing “above and beyond” but was otherwise tight-lipped and sullen during her post-match media duties.

Isner was sent packing in four sets by unfancied local Matthew Ebden while Sock slipped to a 6-1, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3 defeat by 41st-ranked Japanese Yuichi Sugita.

Ryan Harrison was a rare shining light as he battled manfully to defeat Israeli Dudi Sela in a tough five-setter. There was also a dominant victory for Nicole Gibbs and Mackenzie McDonald won a battle of qualifiers.

They were mere scraps on a day when the star spangled banner was left decidedly mangled.

“I don’t know, it’s a tough sport,” said Sock. “Obviously, it wasn’t my day ... it wasn’t some of the American women’s day but I guess that it happens and that’s tennis.” 

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