Former champion Naomi Osaka looked the part of the favorite Wednesday night at the US Open. Days after pulling up lame at the Western and Southern final due to a left hamstring issue, the 2018 champion dominated the dangerous Camila Giorgi 6-1, 6-2.
“I think for me, it’s just whenever I step on the court I don’t think about anything but the match,” Osaka said after the 70-minute win. “Any off-court things, of course it’s a great motivation for me to want to do well this tournament, but for the most part I feel like I’ve been in quarantine and practicing so long that, I don’t know, I prefer to play matches. For me, I just think about what I could do to make myself a better player, what I can do to win the match at the time.”
Osaka will now meet the talented teen Marta Kostyuk who upended Coco’s conqueror Anastasija Sevastova.
While Osaka’s journey will continue, top seed Karolina Pliskova’s is over. The under-performing Czech was sent back to Europe by Caroline Garcia 6-1, 7-6(2). Garcia stomped the 2016 in the first set then came from a break down in the second saving a set point to pull off the upset.
“It’s top players, so if you wait for the mistake it’s never going to happen,” Garcia said. “If you let Pliskova breeze and take your serve, you’re never going to make a return, and then it’s 6-4, 6-4 and you’re done in one hour.
“So you have to make her in trouble – that’s what I liked and it was a great challenge for me. I did well in this challenge and I can take the happiness for it, and now I’m after another one.”
Upsets were contagious on the day as Aliaksandra Sasnovich bounced No. 12 Marketa Vondrosouva, Shelby Rogers downed No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina, Ann Li stunned her countrywoman and No. 13 seed Alison Riske and No. 30 Kristina Mladenovic had 6-1, 5-1 and a total of four match points and still couldn’t put away debutante Varvara Gravcheva in a 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-0 loss to the Russian.
“It definitely felt good to get that one in two sets,” said Rogers after the 7-5, 6-1 win. “The first set, I came out playing pretty cleanly, executing the game plan I had very well, and was serving well. Things got dicey when she started playing better, playing more aggressive and making her shots. I just kept telling myself, ‘One more point, keep making balls,’ and thankfully got through the first set. I really buckled down in the second because I really didn’t want that to happen again”
In her first event back, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber is now the class of her quarter. The German best her countrywoman Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-3, 7-6(6).
“After such a long time, I need to make the transition again to be able to focus during the completely whole match,” Kerber said. “It’s not so easy, so that’s why I’m really happy that I had two close matches, especially today in the second set where just one point decides the second set.
“It gives me a little bit of confidence that I’m getting my match rhythm back, my mental path is there on court, and I can focus on playing points. It’s not so easy, because we had such a long break, but you need a little bit of time to find your way again.”
Also advancing were Petra Kvitova, Petra Martic, Magda Linette and Lexington winner Jennifer Brady who pounded CiCi Bellis 6-1, 6-2. Madison Brengle upset seed Dayana Yastremska late.
On Thursday, Serena Williams is back to face Russian Margarita Gasparyan. Sloane Stephens, Garbine Muguruza, Victoria Azarenka, Sofia Kenin and Johanna Konta are also all in action for the end of the second round.
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