Retirements pepper the 1st-round of the Tennis In The Land WTA 250 lead-up event to next week’s US Open in Cleveland this week, where Denmark’s Clara Tauson upset Barbora Krejcikova, the No 2 seed from Czech Republic, but top-seeded Caroline Garcia advanced alongside Veronika Kudermetova, Anhelina Kalinina and Sloane Stephens.
The many withdrawals and retirements from Tennis in the Land, the final WTA event before the US Open, caused several prospective matches to be cancelled, and are testimony to the few weeks of difficult schedules at the Canadian Open and the Cincinnati Open.
The defending singles champion, Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova, was set to compete at the event again this year, but pulled out before it began.
This came after she had a deep run at the Omnium Banque Nationale in Montréal two weeks ago, reaching the final and finishing as runner-up to Jessica Pegula.
She was also made to play the semi-final and final matches on the same day due to rain delays.
43-year old veteran Venus Williams was set to play Mirra Andreeva, the rising teenage talent, in her opening round, but withdrew due to left knee tendinitis.
The event also lost 4 of its seeded players due to withdrawals, with 6th seed Elisabetta Cocciaretto from Italy, Egypt’s No 7 Mayar Sherif, 8th seed Anna Blinkova from Russia and Romania’s No 10 Irina Begu all pulling out of the event, leaving the organisers with a major draw reshuffle.
On Monday, Tauson, ranked 90th in the world, cruised to a 6-4 6-1 upset win over Krejcikova, the World No 12, after an hour and 29 minutes of play, firing 6 aces against a single double-fault, while the Czech managed only 1 ace and 6 double-faults.
Winning 22 of her 27 first-service points, 81.5%, Tauson broke Krejcikova’s serve 4 times in 6 opportunities, to set up a 2nd-round meeting with Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, who breezed past another Czech, 18-year old Linda Noskova, in her opener on Sunday, 6-0 6-2.
Fernandez had the burden of 1300 ranking points to defend at last year’s New York Grand Slam, after finishing as runner-up to Emma Raducanu in the 2021 US Open final, but she has struggled to achieve the same results of two years ago, despite making the quarter-finals of the French Open and winning her second WTA title at the Monterrey Open last year.
This year, after ending her 2022 season early because of injury, Fernandez, currently ranked 72, is looking to regain the form that took her to a Grand Slam final.
Garcia, the World No 7, easily avoided the same fate as Krejcikova, the Frenchwoman needing just 66 minutes to beat another young Czech, 18-year old Linda Fruhvirtova, 6-3 6-2.
She failed to save the only break point she faced while converting 4 of 5 break points across the match, but won 73% of her first-serve points to her opponent’s 59%, and took 53% points on returning the latter’s second serve.
Entering into the last WTA tournament before the start of the US Open, Garcia was on a 4-match losing streak, having lost in the 1st-round at Montréal and Cincinnati last week.
In the 2nd-round in Cleveland, Garcia will take on 21-year old American Peyton Stearns, who moved into the Last 16 when Italian lucky loser Martina Trevisan retired.
Stearns, ranked 58, led 6-1, 4-5 when Trevisan, ranked 53, pulled out on Monday evening at Cleveland’s Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica in Flats West Bank.
3rd-seeded Kudermetova from Russia came from a set down to get past Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska, 1-6 6-2 6-1, while Kalinina, the 5th seed from Ukraine, was a comfortable 6-2 6-2 win over Romania’s Ana Bogdon.
Elsewhere, Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion and the 9th seed here, also needed 3 sets to see off American compatriot Lauren Davis, 1-6 6-3 6-1, on Monday night, while, earlier in the day, No 11 seed Jasmine Paolini from Italy, who reached the quarter-finals of last week’s Western & Southern Open, beat Poland’s Magdalena Frech, 6-1 6-3.
Others to advance on Monday included Russia’s Andreeva, who fought her way past German lucky loser Tamara Korpatsch’s come-back, 6-0 3-6 7-5; while another lucky loser, Sara Sorribes Tormo from Spain, advanced when Czech Katerina Siniakova retired with the score standing at 6-2, 4-0; Chinese qualifier Xinyu Wang edged out French qualifier Clara Burel, 7-6(5) 4-6 7-5; Austria’s Julia Grabher took out Xiyu Wang from China, also a qualifier, 6-3 6-4; and Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus outlasted American Emma Navarro, 3-6 6-4 7-5.