Rebound Ace playing like Roland Garros

Where have all the good Americans gone in the Australian Open draw? Pam Shriver knows why they've been bounced, starting with the playing surface.

Updated: January 21, 2006, 11:20 PM ET
By Pam Shriver | Special to ESPN.com

At least you have quality players in the two Americans still alive at the Australian Open (Lindsay Davenport and Andy Roddick). Both have a chance to win the championship.

But it's very surprising there are only two Americans left and it's late in the first week. That's French Open material.

But the Rebound Ace court is the surface that is most similar to clay. It's slowish and high bouncing. Andre Agassi has done well down here with the heat and Pete Sampras won a couple titles, but American men haven't exactly torn up the Australian Open since it moved to playing on the Rebound Ace. But this shows that this surface is like a hard court version of clay with the pace and the way the ball bounces.

Here's the thing: Was the 2005 U.S. Open an aberration for the men and how well they did? Forget underachieving at the Australian Open, did Robby Ginepri and James Blake overachieve at the U.S. Open? Did the stars just happen to line up right for them? Maybe in the months following the U.S. Open they have put pressure on themselves. We have put pressure on them to join Roddick as contenders to win majors and they aren't really there.

You need more than one major after you've had your first big breakthrough to figure that out. Let's face it, with the exception of Roger Federer, in men's tennis anything can happen. Any player can beat anyone else except Federer.

The sliding Williams sisters
Serena Williams, obviously, is not in the kind of shape you need to be in to go down to Australia, where you have to play seven matches in 13 days and the temperatures on court can be 120 degrees.

She got away with one last year, but now she is another level worse as far as her conditioning. You can't fool everyone all the time. In the last couple of years Venus, except for Wimbledon and maybe a couple other tournaments, has been very inconsistent.

For a couple of years the Williams sisters were predictable. They would hit the ball hard, hit a lot of winners, they were fairly fit and moved quicker than anybody on the circuit. Now what do they come to the table with? They don't intimidate as much, they're not as consistent, more injured, not well-conditioned -- especially Serena; Venus is in better shape -- the whole package is not as good. The only exception I can say is when I see Venus step on a grass court I see a different player, and I said that going into Wimbledon last year (which she won).

When somebody does defeat a Williams sister, how well are they really playing? It's no longer a great measuring stick if you beat Venus or Serena.

Because of their name it is still a surprise, but it shouldn't be anymore.

As for the lone American left in the women's draw, Lindsay Davenport should just keep her head down and feel in her heart that there is one more major out there to win, and keep plugging away.

She has a tough draw. Depending how it plays out, Davenport could potentially face four former Grand Slam champions in her next four matches (Svetlana Kuznetsova, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Maria Sharapov and either Martina Hingis or Kim Clijsters).

If Davenport wins the Australian, it will be by far the toughest of her Grand Slam victories.

ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles, and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002.

A top player on the women's tennis tour more than 15 years, Pam Shriver hosts ESPN's women's tennis telecasts. She also appears as a sideline reporter on select men's matches.