The No. 1 ranking on the line makes players do a lot of weird things — chokey things, as we saw from Simona Halep when she had a chance to take No. 1 for the first time prior to the US Open.
An amazing eight players entered the US Open with a chance to exit after two weeks with the No. 1 ranking. One of those players was No. 7 seed Johanna Konta, who is no longer one of those players after a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to unheralded No. 78-ranked Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia.
Krunic in the end just hung around long enough to win, blunting a lot of the Brit’s power, and in the third set breaking at 3-3 after a flurry of unforced errors and misguided net approaches by Konta.
“I don’t think I necessarily played my best tennis, but my opponent also had something to say about that,” Konta said. “She played very freely, I felt, and she moved incredibly well. She made it very tough for me to be able to get any easier points.”
Despite her No. 7 seeding, Konta wasn’t bubbling with confidence entering Flushing Meadows.
“I think it would be quite obnoxious of me to come in here expecting I have a right to be in the second week,” she said.
Another player was the before-mentioned Halep. The No. 2 seed drew wildcard Maria Sharapova, and went out to the free-swinging Russian 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Halep’s apparent strategy of hitting down the middle until Sharapova hit a winner did not pay dividends in the end.
“I just stayed there,” said Halep on coming back from 1-4 in the second set. “I didn’t think that I lost the match. I just kept fighting, playing. I feel that I started to play a little bit more relaxed after that score. Then I got the confidence back. Actually, I didn’t lose the confidence during the match because I felt that I was very close, also in the first set. So it was really well, in my opinion. I mean, I cannot judge myself for not doing something, just the serve, because was a bad serve today.”
Halep was not a fan of Sharapova leaving the court for an extended time after the second set.
“Like always,” Halep said. “I’m used. When I play against her, she does that all the time. So I didn’t think about that. It’s her style and I don’t comment.”
Top 10-seeded winners on opening day were No. 3 Garbine Muguruza bageling American Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 6-3, No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki beating Roamnian Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-1, 7-5, and No. 9 Venus Williams slogging past Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
“First round’s always, you know, tricky,” Wozniacki said after beating the qualifier Buzarnescu. “You just want to get through them, get them done, and move on, especially in Grand Slams. I was happy to finish off in two sets.”
Other seeded winners on the day were No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova needing three to get past Jana Cepelova, No. 13 Petra Kvitova topping former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 7-5, No. 16 Anastasija Sevastova, No. 18 Caroline Garcia, No. 22 Peng Shuai, No. 29 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni edging Monica Puig in a third-set breaker, No. 30 Julia Goerges, and No. 31 Magdalena Rybarikova.
Other upset-minded players were Aussie Ashleigh Barty coming from a set down to beat No. 21 Ana Konjuh 4-6, 6-0, 6-1, Greece’s Maria Sakkari ousting No. 24 Kiki Bertens 6-3, 6-4, and Sofia Kenin beating fellow American and No. 32 seed Lauren Davis 7-5, 7-5.
Matches to look for on Tuesday at Flushing Meadows include (6) Angie Kerber vs. Naomi Osaka, (20) CoCo Vandeweghe vs. Alison Riske in an all-American, (25) Daria Gavrilova vs. (Q) Allie Kiick, (26) Anett Kontaveit vs. veteran Lucie Safarova, and (1) Karolina Pliskova starting vs. Magda Linette.
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