No. 1 seed Karolina Pliskova upset at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK (AP) — Under normal circumstances, Karolina Pliskova would not have been seeded No. 1 at the U.S. Open and so, while a second-round loss certainly would have been disappointing to her, and noticed by others, it wouldn’t have been as newsworthy.

But what’s normal in 2020? With the women who are 1-2 in the rankings choosing to skip the trip to Flushing Meadows because of the pandemic, No. 3 Pliskova ascended to the top spot in the draw — and by Day 3, she was gone.

Pliskova, the 2016 runner-up at the U.S. Open, made her mood clear during a 6-1, 7-6 (2) loss to 50th-ranked Caroline Garcia on Tuesday by breaking a racket, then again afterward with a series of clipped responses at her news conference.

Pliskova fidgeted with the microphone. Sighed. Rolled her eyes.

When a reporter offered possible explanations for the defeat — a new faster surface on the courts, a lack of atmosphere because there are no spectators, the pressure of her high seeding — Pliskova replied: “Nothing from what you said.”

Her reasoning for the result? “I didn’t play good,” Pliksova said, “so that’s it.”

US OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

When another member of the media said this back-and-forth must be boring to Pliskova, she said, “Yeah, a little bit. Did you see the match or no?” and soon after remarked, “I don’t know if you understand tennis well enough.”

After a first round that went more to form than ever — 29 of 32 seeded women won their opening matches, a U.S. Open record since the number of seeds was doubled from 16 in 2001 — the surprises started in the second round.

Shelby Rogers, an American ranked 93rd, beat 11th-seeded Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-1, and Ann Li, who is ranked 128th, beat 13th-seeded Alison Riske 6-0, 6-3 in a matchup between two players from Pennsylvania.

Other seeded women who were eliminated: No. 12 Marketa Vondrousova, No. 30 Kristina Mladenovic, No. 31 Anastasija Sevastova.

Mladenovic’s loss was the wildest of them all. She led 6-1, 5-1, then later held four match points, but never was able to finish and ended up on the wrong end of a 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-0 result against 102nd-ranked Varvara Gracheva.

Two seeded men exited, too: No. 13 Cristian Garin and No. 24 Hubert Hurkacz.

Pliskova had chances to take the second set against Garcia, who had been 0-8 against top-five opponents at Grand Slam tournaments, but failed to do so.

Couldn’t really come up with how to describe why this happened, either.

“That’s how it is sometimes,” Pliskova said. “I am not a robot, so I don’t have to play every day amazing.”

Unlike Pliskova, the No. 1 man, Novak Djokovic, only had a brief blip — dropping the first set to Kyle Edmund — on his way to the third round and a 25-0 record in 2020. Going back to late last season, his winning streak is 28 matches overall.

“I’m actually glad I did drop a set and got tested the way I did today against Kyle. I expected it to be a tough, tough task,” said Djokovic, who has won five of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments to raise his major trophy total to 17, three behind Roger Federer and two behind Rafael Nadal.

“I’m really glad having an early kind of tough match in the tournament,” Djokovic said, because it kind of serves me better, I think, for the rest of the tournament.”

Next up for him is No. 28 Jan-Lennard Struff, someone Djokovic dismissed 6-3, 6-1 last week at the Western & Southern Open.

Other winners Wednesday included No. 5 Alexander Zverev and No. 7 David Goffin, while No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas was scheduled to play at night, heading into Arthur Ashe Stadium after two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka’s 6-1, 6-2 win against Camila Giorgi.

The only complication for the fourth-seeded Osaka was the attempted on-court video call with her mother, Tamaki, afterward.

“Hi! What are you doing?” Osaka said.

The audio connection wasn’t great, and Osaka eventually ended the sweet but slightly awkward exchange.

“Bye, Mom,” Osaka said. “I’ll call you later.”

What parent and child couldn’t relate?

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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