Ekaterina Makarova is moving on to the Australian Open quarterfinals, but for all the young Russian’s efforts, it was Serena Williams who all but knocked herself out of the tournament.
The last American singles player left in Melbourne crashed out of the field with a dismal fourth-round performance marked by double-faults and unforced errors. Williams, the No. 12 seed, double-faulted seven times — including four times in a single game — and committed a whopping 37 unforced errors in a frustrating 6-2, 6-3 loss.
It was her earliest exit from the year’s first major since 2006 and just her third loss Down Under since she won the first of her five titles in 2003.
“I’m not physically 100 percent, so I can’t be so angry at myself, even though I’m very unhappy,” said Williams, who injured her left ankle in Brisbane two weeks ago. “I know that I can play a hundred times better than I did this whole tournament.”
That sentiment runs throughout the ranks of the American men and women singles players, none of whom stuck around long enough to see the quarterfinals.
Williams, the lone seeded American woman, became the third seeded player from the U.S. to fall to an unseeded opponent, joining Mardy Fish (8) and Andy Roddick (15). And while there were a few bright spots — Ryan Sweeting pushing David Ferrer to five sets and Vania King and Christina McHale advancing to the third round — it was another disappointing showing for the U.S. at a major. This is the first time since 1973 that no American man advanced to the fourth round.
Here’s a look at how the United States fared in Melbourne last week:
Mardy Fish (8) — 2nd round to Falla, 6-7, 3-6, 6-7
Andy Roddick (15) — 2nd round to Hewitt, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6 (ret.)
John Isner (16) — 3rd round to Lopez (18), 3-6, 7-6, 4-7, 7-6, 1-6
Ryan Sweeting — 2nd round to Ferrer (5), 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, 2-6, 3-6
Sam Querrey — 2nd round to Tomic, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 3-6
Donald Young — 2nd round to Lacko, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 3-6
Michael Russell — 1st round to Chela, 6-7, 3-6, 4-6
Ryan Harrison — 1st round to Murray, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 2-6
Jesse Levine — 1st round to Granollers (26), 0-6, 6-7, 7-5, 7-5, 3-6
Denis Kudla — 1st round to Haas, 6-7, 6-3, 0-6, 5-7
Alex Kuznetsov — 1st round to Nadal (2), 4-6, 1-6, 1-6
Serena Williams (12) — 4th round to Marakova, 2-6, 3-6
Vania King — 3rd round to Ivanovic (21), 3-6, 4-6
Christina McHale — 3rd round to Jankovic (13), 2-6, 0-6
Sloane Stephens — 2nd round to Kuznetsova (18), 6-7, 5-7
Jamie Hampton — 2nd round to Sharapova (4), 0-6, 1-6
Bethanie Mattek-Sands — 1st round to Radwanska (8), 7-6, 4-6, 2-6
Varvara Lepchenko — 1st round to Hantuchova (20), 4-6, 3-6, 2-6
Irina Falconi — 1st round to Brianti, 2-6, 5-7
Alison Riske — 1st round to U. Radwanska, 4-6, 6-1, 2-6
Madison Keys — 1st round to Jie Zheng, 2-6, 1-6
Mardy Fish’s second-round loss was a big blow to the top American man’s quest to breakthrough at a Grand Slam while Andy Roddick’s injury is just another mile-marker on his downward slide. John Isner showed plenty of grit in fending off David Nalbandian in another marathon five-setter in the second round, but if the big guy could break serve more often and avoid all the tiebreakers, he might not be so gassed by the third round of every tournament.
The 19-year-old Harrison showed some pluck in taking the opening set from Andy Murray, and he could be a future contender, but that was the supposed to be the story with Donald Young, who is only now starting to see some results after seven years of struggles on tour.
Both Williams sisters can’t seem to get past their numerous injuries long enough to regain their form in the always-fluid women’s rankings. McHale — who at 19 has already beaten world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki among others — will be worth watching, but she’ll need to make a run at a major before she can be annointed the next American contender.
So if you’re looking to watch Americans compete for Grand Slam titles in 2012, you may need turn your attention to the doubles scene, where Bob and Mike Bryan will once against be the country’s best hope.
More Australian Open coverage:
Australian Open: Scoreboard, schedule of play