It is a fact that by the end of Day 2 at the US Open, half of the 128 players in the draw will lose, but World No 1 Ash Barty and 4th-seeded Karolina Pliskova, the highest seeds in the top half of the draw, both came through in straight sets on Tuesday in New York.
That’s what the beauty of our sport is: there are no two players the same. In each and every match, you have to adapt and have to be able to tactically change and execute in a different way. Ash Barty
Australia’s Barty beat Russian veteran Vera Zvonareva in straight sets, but was forced to dig deep in the second set, with the top seed broken while serving for the match and forced into a tiebreak, which she won to seal a 6-1 7-6(5) victory.
Pliskova of the Czech Republic was also a straight sets winner, dispatching home teenager Catherine McNally 6-3 6-4.
Only two seeds fell, in fact, Karolina Muchova, No 22 from the Czech Republic, and Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, No 29, upset by Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and Sorana Cirstea from Romania respectively.
Safely through, however, were seeded players Bianca Andreescu (No 6), Iga Swiatek (7) Petra Kvitova (10), Belinda Bencic (11) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (14).
Barty is happy to be back in front of the fans again in New York, having missed out on the US Open last year due to travel concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was disappointed not to be able to come and play last year, but playing this time with the fans has made it all the better,” the 25-year-old said in her on-court interview.
“It is so much fun being back in New York and with the city buzzing again, as it should be, so it’s really nice to be able to share this with everyone out here today.”
In the end, Barty missed the 2020 season when it resumed in August.
“We made the right decisions for us,” she said. “It was a unique year for everyone last year but we trained and got ready, we had a really long pre-season and came into this year with the attitude it would be a different adventure for us.
“It has been something different, but a really enjoyable ride from the start.”
Fun and successful since Barty has won 5 tournaments this season, including a second career Grand Slam at Wimbledon and her US Open tune-up in Cincinnati.
In her opener here, top-seeded Barty came out firing on all cylinders and raced to a 3-0 lead, taking the set in just 24 minutes.
The second, however, turned into a bit of a battle after a pause when the electronic line calling system failed and went offline.
“Can’t we get some linesmen?” the Aussie asked.
Since there are none on site, the players had to wait and when play resumed, the 36-year-old Russian forced matters into a tiebreak after Barty had served for the match at 5-4.
Zvonareva is a former US Open and Wimbledon runner-up and she rose to the occasion on Arthur Ashe Stadium, refusing to lie down after the lop-sided opening set.
In the end Barty’s all-court game and power proved too much for her, with the Australian laying down 11 aces and firing 31 winners compared to 9 by her opponent.
“Vera, without a doubt, she’s an experienced campaigner,” said Barty. “I think in the first set I served exceptionally well.
“She was a little bit loose off her racket and she gave me a few cheapies.
“I think all in all being able to work my way around that and kind of get through that in straight sets was really pleasing.
“I think, when my back was against the wall, I came up with some really good stuff. That’s all we can ask when your back is against the wall.”
The Russian, who turns 37 next week, only found 2 winners in the first set as Barty employed her signature variety to fire 13 of her own, while the top seed also controlled the rallies with her strong first serve, winning 80% of those points.
Next up for Barty is a second-round meeting with Danish teenager Clara Tauson, who took out fellow teen Clara Burel from France, 7-5 6-0.
Pliskova ended the hopes of another teenager after she knocked out home favourite McNally.
The former World No 1, who made the final at Flushing Meadows in 2016, created 11 break points and won 5 of them to comfortably reach the last 64, where she faces another American, Amanda Anisimova, a 7-5 6-2 winner over Zarina Dyas from Kazakstan.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek beat American Jamie Loeb, 6-3 6-4, in an hour 14 minutes on the Grandstand court on Tuesday afternoon.
The 2020 Roland Garros champion has now reached the second round in New York for the third straight season, and she is 10-1 overall in first-round matches at Grand Slam events.
Swiatek fired 23 winners to just 16 unforced errors, while the American’s 15 winners were well outpaced by 24 unforced errors.
The Pole was unbothered on serve, never facing a break point in the match in which she broke serve twice out of 9 break points to clinch her victory.
“It’s the first round so my level isn’t going to be as high as usual, but that’s normal,” Swiatek said, after the match. “I think I’m going to get into the rhythm in the next round.
“But I’m really happy with how I played this. My opponent played really well. When my shots didn’t have perfect precision, she used that and she played really fast.
“So it was kind of weird because I wasn’t in the rhythm, but I thought that I could let her sometimes make mistakes because I felt that she was risking a lot with her shots. At the end it worked out pretty well.”
The Pole will face Fiona Ferro in the second round, after the Frenchwoman beat Nao Hibino of Japan, 6-1 6-4.
Meanwhile, Kvitova made short work of Polona Hercog of Slovenia, 6-1 6-2, in a hair over an hour, also on the Grandstand court.
The two-time Wimbledon champion, whose best US Open results are quarter-final runs in 2015 and 2017, converted all 4 of her break points in the match and fired 18 winners to Hercog’s 7.
She will now face a fellow Czech, qualifier Kristyna Pliskova, the twin sister of the 4th seed, in a meeting of 2 lefties in the second round.
“I think it was a pretty solid game from my side,” Kvitova said, after the match. “I played solid from the serve to return, from the baseline as well.
“I really enjoyed to play over there. I played Polona a few times. It’s been always a big battle, so I expected a tough challenge.
“From the beginning, I think I was really there. The first two games was kind of key to get a little bit more relaxed and comfortable in the court.”
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic started her US Open campaign with a 6-4 6-4 win against Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands.
“I’m still on cloud nine, I would say,” the Swiss 11th seed said with a smile. “Of course I’m focusing on this tournament and just on playing well. But I feel like I want to be on cloud nine all the time.
“I feel like these memories I will have forever. And this Olympics experience, my first Olympics, and just how everything went with winning the gold, for me it’s forever and for me it’s probably going to be the biggest achievement I will ever have. I’m still very happy about it.”
Later, Bianca Andreescu overcame stomach pain and a stiff challenge from another Swiss, Viktorija Golubic, to advance 7-5 4-6 7-5 into the second round.
The 21-year-old Canadian, making her return to Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time since she won the tournament in 2019, got all she could handle from Golubic in the nearly 3-hour affair on a hot and humid night in New York, but the Andreescu’s 7 aces and punishing groundstrokes ultimately proved too much for the Swiss.
After defeating Serena Williams in the 2019 final, Andreescu’s 2020 Grand Slam campaign was written off by injury and sickness that included everything from tearing the meniscus in her left knee to testing positive for COVID-19.
This year, she has managed just one win at a the majors, a first-round victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu at this year’s Australian Open, followed by first-round exits in Paris and at Wimbledon.
“It’s definitely emotional,” Andreescu said in an on-court interview after the match. “I didn’t play here last year and I honestly didn’t play anything in 2020.
“I’ve been struggling a lot this past year so for me, I’m just thinking about all those struggles and how it’s all worth it.
“Winning on this court again is just incredible.”
Andreescu needed a medical time-out midway through the second set to attend to an upset stomach, but said it turned out to be fine.
“My food was just rumbling in my stomach and I felt like I had to throw up, which is random because I ate like, five hours ago,” she said. “It was totally fine after a couple games but it was a little tough.”
Next up for Andreescu is a second round clash with American Lauren Davis on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Pavlyuchenkova, the French Open finalist who was not sure if she would make it to New York after being stuck in Canada due to visa issues, arrived over the weekend, and shrugged off the distractions to defeat American Alison Riske, 6-4 6-2, setting up a meeting with Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, a qualifier from Slovakia, in the second round.
Among the other seeded players in the women’s draw, with 17th seed Maria Sakkari of Greece overcoming Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, 6-4 6-3, while 24th seed Paula Badosa of Spain beat Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck by the same scoreline.