You’d think with 8-9 players in contention for the No. 1 spot on the WTA rankings, you’d see some dynamite match-ups at the US Open, eh?
The choke-fest continued among the No. 1 contenders on Thursday at the US Open, but this time with some Houdini-like escapes.
World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova was down a set and a few games from defeat until breaking unseeded American Nicole Gibbs and eventually triumphing 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“Her level was quite high in the beginning of the match,” Pliskova said. “I quite didn’t expect that she’s going to play this way. I thought, like, little bit thought since we played two times, we practiced, saw few of her matches, she’s going to be more like defending. She really was going for her shots. All credit to her. Overall I think not even close to what I want to play today. So, yeah, just happy that I went through.”
Seeds not so lucky Thursday were former US Open winner and No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova falling to Japan’s Kurumi Nara 6-3, 3-6, 6-3; No. 23 Barbora Strycova upset by American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 6-1; and No. 25 Daria Gavrilova edged by American Shelby Rogers 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-6(5).
“I knew how hard it was to close that match out,” Rogers said after winning 7-6 in the third in a match that was the longest in US open history. “We’d been battling out there. I knew it was going to be a really tough fight going into it. She’s been playing really well, she’s super confident, she makes you earn every single point. I was definitely ready for that. Then I looked at the clock after, yeah. Setting records, there you go.”
Other Top 10 winners joining Pliskova on the day were No. 4 Elina Svitolina straight-setting Russian Evgeniya Rodina 6-4, 6-4, and No. 10 Agnieszka Radwanska defeating Yulia Putintseva 7-5, 6-2.
Lower-seeded winners Thursday were No. 12 seed and French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko beating Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-4; No. 15 Madison Keys dismissing German Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-4; No. 17 Elena Vesnina defeating Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-4; No. 20 CoCo Vandeweghe beating Ons Jabeur 7-6(6), 6-2; and No. 27 Zhang Shuai rolling Japan’s Risa Ozaki 6-0, 6-3.
Keys said the American players continue to root for each other.
“I mean, we’re all friends,” she said. “I hope we root for each other or else we’re going to have to send some text messages out later.”
Unseeded winners of note were Japan’s Naomi Osaka, backing up her win over former No. 1 Angie Kerber with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 victory over Czech Denisa Allertova, and veteran Lucie Safarova beating Japan’s Nao Hibino 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
Osaka said the challenge is to keep her mind from wandering in matches — and in practice.
“Once I was practicing, right, and my whole practice — you know, there is that commercial that says, ‘If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma,’ that’s all I could think about for the whole practice,” she said after her match. “I was, like, why do I keep thinking this? Then, like, during the breaks, all I could see was like that commercial where this woman was running in a field. I mean, it was a good practice. It’s just my mind wasn’t there. Like, I think it was just muscle memory and stuff. That was a weird day.”
Friday matches to watch for at Flushing Meadows include (13) Petra Kvitova vs. (18) Caroline Garcia, Maria Sharpaova vs. American Sofia Kenin, and (3) Garbine Muguruza vs. (31) Magdalena Rybarikova.
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