One US woman left at Key Biscayne

Posted March 24, 2011, at 8:39 p.m.

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Three days into the Sony Ericsson Open, only one American remains in the women’s draw — Uzbekistan-born Varvara Lepchenko.

Three U.S. women lost in the second round Thursday, including Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who was eliminated by No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2, 7-5. With Serena and Venus Williams sidelined for health reasons, Mattek-Sands was the highest-ranked American in the draw at No. 43.

American qualifier Jamie Hampton lost to No. 21-seeded Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 7-5, and American Melanie Oudin was beaten by No. 29 Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 6-3.

“Without the Williams sisters, it definitely adds some pressure for us for sure, especially for tournaments in the States,” said Oudin, a surprise U.S. Open quarterfinalist in 2009. “Everyone is going to keep trying. It’s not like we’re all getting down on ourselves.”

The lone American left was the No. 82-ranked Lepchenko, who has lived in the United States since 2000 and became a citizen this year. She plays a second-round match Friday.

Only seven Americans made the 96-player women’s field, including two wild cards and two qualifiers — a reflection of the decline in U.S. tennis fortunes in recent years.

“We all hear it, because people do say it,” Oudin said. “But all of us are trying to push each other to move up in the rankings together. That would be good.”

U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez found cause for encouragement in some results at Key Biscayne. Sloane Stephens, 18, and Jamie Hampton, 21, made the draw through qualifying, and four American women won their opening match.

“It’s baby steps,” Fernandez said. “It’s a lot better than it was a year. We’re making progress. A lot of the younger generation is starting to make their move.

“We’ll have a top-10 player again.”

Seeded players were in action for the first time after having byes in the opening round. Among those eliminated were No. 10 Shahar Peer, No. 13 Flavia Pennetta and No. 18 Nadia Petrova.

Peer was beaten by Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-2, 6-2. Pennetta lost to Iveta Benesova 6-3, 6-0. Petrova retired because of dizziness trailing Sabine Lisicki 4-6, 6-3, 3-1.

No. 4 Sam Stosur beat Zheng Jie 6-2, 6-1, and No. 6 Jelena Jankovic eliminated Monica Niculescu 6-3, 6-1. No. 11 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2006 champion, swept Simona Halep 6-0, 6-4.

In men’s play, Kei Nishikori advanced to a second-round match Saturday against top-ranked Rafael Nadal by beating Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (5), 6-2. Radek Stepanek will next play Roger Federer after beating Fabio Fognini 6-3, 7-6 (5). Pablo Cuevas will face 2010 champion Andy Roddick next after defeating Michael Berrer 6-4, 7-6 (2).

Mattek-Sands has ties to South Florida, and she gave 20 tickets for her match to friends and relatives. But the home-court advantage didn’t help, and neither did her typically flashy outfit, which included silver sneakers, knee-high socks and eye black.

She fell to 1-16 against top-10 players.

Such is the state of U.S. tennis. But the 26-year-old Mattek-Sands said the outlook for the next generation is promising.

“I think we have a lot of good juniors coming up,” she said. “I don’t think it’s as drastic as everyone makes it seem. But we definitely want to get some Americans up in the top 20.”

Wozniacki, coming off her 14th career title last week at Indian Wells, erased eight of the 10 break points she faced. Wozniacki hit only five winners but committed just 15 unforced errors to 49 for Mattek-Sands.

“Bethanie is a tough player to play,” Wozniacki said. “You never know what to expect from her, and she’s going for her shots no matter where she’s standing on the court, and it’s difficult to get the rhythm.”

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