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.”
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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