By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – 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 raft of American players skidded out of the season’s first grand slam in the first round.
A miserable day session for America saw U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, seven-times grand slam winner Venus Williams, men’s 16th seed John Isner and eighth seed Jack Sock, the highest ranked U.S. player in the men’s draw, all exit the tournament.
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, c’mon, 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 media 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 racquets 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 semi-finals at last year’s U.S. Open to fall at the first hurdle at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Champion Stephens, the 13th seed, was bundled out in three sets by China’s plucky Zhang Shuai. It was Stephens’ eighth successive defeat since her maiden grand slam triumph.
Fifth seed Williams, who lost last year’s final at Melbourne Park to her champion 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 at the Margaret Court Arena while Sock slipped to a 6-1 7-6(4) 5-7 6-3 defeat to 41st-ranked Yuichi Sugita on Show Court Two.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)