If you’re a U.S. tennis fan who went to bed at your normal hour on Sunday night, you didn’t miss much at the Australian Open. In fact, you did exactly the right thing.
On the sport’s unofficial opening day of 2018, America sent 15 players into battle, and only three came back alive. These weren’t just any players, either. Five of them—Venus Williams, Jack Sock, Coco Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephens, and John Isner—were seeded. Three of of the women—Sloane, Coco, and Venus—had reached the semifinals at last year’s US Open. One of the men—Sock—had finished 2017 on a career high note by winning his first Masters 1000 and cracking the Top 10.
It was possible to find reasons or excuses for each of these defeats. Venus is 37 and was facing a highly-skilled opponent in Belinda Bencic. Vandeweghe had the flu. Stephens has had knee problems. Sock has had hip problems. Isner was playing an inspired Aussie.
But their losses had something else in common, something dull and simple, but overwhelmingly important: a lack of consistency. In each case, the American was more powerful than his or her opponent, but in each case the American failed to put in as many balls as his or her opponent at the crucial stages.
The Daily Mix: Joel Drucker and Nina Pantic, from Melbourne