In a two-day blur that certainly will dishearten USTA coaches and executives, the 12 American women in the main draw of the Australian Open was quickly down to two — No. 4 Venus Williams and Vania King.
And King next plays No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki. Research was underway trying to determine the last time, if ever, the U.S. had as few as one woman player in the third round of a Grand Slam.
You could excuse some of these losses, which sent very inexperienced U.S. players against seeds. But there also was Coco Vandeweghe’s 6-2, 6-1 defeat to No. 83 Alize Cornet. Vandeweghe came into the Open with apparent confidence, having buzzed through three qualifying matches and using her heavy hitting to put an identity on her game.
There were good signs late last week, when three American women qualified — Irina Falconi, Jamie Hampton and Vandeweghe. And you could argue that few of the U.S. women were facing players ranked below them, so they weren’t expected to win. But somewhere among a 2-10 record in the main draw, the USTA had hoped for some upsets.
This was the U.S. lineup, with rankings: No. 5 Venus Williams, No. 48 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, No. 64 Melanie Oudin, No. 76 Varvara Lepchenko, No. 88 Vania King, No. 101 Jill Craybas, No. 110 Christina McHale, No. 115 Alison Riske, No. 116 Vandeweghe, No. 132 Hampton, No. 184 Falconi and No. 443 Lauren Davis, who won a playoff in the U.S. for an Australian Open wild card. That’s 11 of the U.S.’ top 13 women.
The U.S. still has Venus Willliams and, probably, Serena Williams, if she doesn’t suddenly retire after months off with a foot injury. But right now there is no depth.
Williams easily reached the second round and is expected to make it to the second week, and King won without too much difficulty. But it would be a shocker if she upset Wozniacki.
Mattek-Sands went out to No. 139 Arantxa Rus. Oudin lost to Klara Zakopalova. Lepchenko had the worst defeat, beaten by 17-year-old Caroline Garcia of France, who was playing her first Grand Slam. Garcia is ranked No. 275.
Craybas, near the end of her career, was beaten by 30th ranked Andrea Petkovic. McHale went out to No. 62 Carla Suarez Navarro. Riske lost to 23rd seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. Falconi was put out by No. 24 seed Alisa Kleybanova and Davis was completely mismatched against No. 5 seed Sam Stosur.
Several of the U.S. women are playing doubles at the Aussie Open, which will give them more big-stage experience. But they’ve flunked in the singles draw.