Decline of Australia as tennis power evident at Wimbledon
Australian men once dominated Wimbledon. This year, they failed to win a match.
Aussies went 0-4, including a loss Tuesday by 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt. That means no Australian man in the second round — the first time that has happened since 1938.
During a 12-year span from 1960 to 1971, Australians won the Wimbledon men's title 10 times. But in recent years, they've experienced a decline similar to the United States, with South Americans, Eastern Europeans and Asians increasingly competitive as tennis becomes more global.
Hewitt's 14th Wimbledon appearance was brief. He needed a wild card to enter the tournament and lost to No. 5-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (5) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Aussies Bernard Tomic and Matthew Ebden also lost Tuesday.
"The boys didn't have the best day," Hewitt said.
Tomic, who reached the quarter-finals last year as an 18-year-old qualifier, lost to Belgian wild card David Goffin. Ebden was beaten by Benoit Paire. Another Australian, Marinko Matosevic, lost to Xavier Malisse on Monday.
Hewitt said tough draws were partly to blame for the shutout.
"The three guys that played today, I know we could have beat a lot of guys that are still going in the tournament," he said. "That's just how it falls."
Hewitt drew an especially difficult opening opponent. The loss was his first in the first round at Wimbledon since 2003. Despite losing in straight sets, he found little fault with his performance.
"I didn't do a lot wrong, really," he said. "Probably as good as I could have done today, really."
Hewitt's victory at Wimbledon was the most recent major title by an Australian man. Now 31, he has been plagued lately by injuries, most recently a foot ailment that required surgery in March 2011. He's just 4-6 in Grand Slam matches since August 2010 and the former No. 1 is ranked 202nd.
He plans to be back at Wimbledon next month playing as a wild card in the Olympics, and hopes to return to Wimbledon in 2013.
"At the moment, I've been focusing on getting back this year, doing everything right with my foot and rehab to get back to here," Hewitt said. "I'm proud of myself, of what I've been able to do, all the hard work it has taken to get here.
"I'd like to be back here, absolutely, but we'll have to wait and see."
The winner of 555 matches in his career, Hewitt is only lately becoming accustomed to early exits at tournaments. He's still not used to the experience.
"It's like missing the cut at any golf tournament," Hewitt said. "I can only go out there and do what I could do out there today.
"I didn't get handed the best draw. I'm sure there are a lot of guys in the tournament that I probably could have got through today."
Hewitt was overpowered by Tsonga, a big hitter who beat six-time champion Roger Federer last year to reach the semifinals. Tsonga totalled 61 winners to 12 for Hewitt.
Petra Kvitova opened her bid for a second successive Wimbledon title by overcoming a shaky start to beat Akgul Amanmuradova 6-4, 6-4. Kvitova fell behind 4-1, then swept seven consecutive games to take charge.
"I was nervous," she said. "It was first time for me to be as the defending champion of a Grand Slam.
"You know, it was huge honour to come to Centre Court. Of course, I would like to make everyone happy, but it's not that easy.
"It was lot of firsts for me today, but I'm happy that I stayed calm inside and did not panic on the important points."
No. 2-seeded Victoria Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, beat Irina Falconi 6-1, 6-4, and four-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-2, 6-4 on the same court where older sister Venus upset a day earlier.
In men's play on Centre Court, two-time champion Rafael Nadal lost the first four games but rebounded to beat fellow left-hander Thomaz Bellucci 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-3.
"I'm very happy to be back on the best court in the world and winning," Nadal said. "It's fantastic for me, but I have to improve a lot for the next round."
Twelve matches were suspended because of rain. Three-time finalist Andy Roddick led Jamie Baker 7-6 (1), 4-2 when their match was halted. Sara Errani, runner-up this month at the French Open, held match point in the second set against American qualifier Coco Vandeweghe when play stopped.