Former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki upset 11th seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets on Wednesday night, and promptly burst into tears in a release of emotion following her return to pro tennis after an absence of some 3 years.
It feels amazing to beat such an amazing player and champion like Petra. Obviously, I knew coming into the match that I had a chance to win, and I believe in myself. At the same time, she obviously has had a great year. She’s 11 in the world, loves to play on hard courts. Caroline Wozniacki
Wozniacki, who only returned to the tour in August after retiring following the Australian Open in 2020 to start a family, booked her place in the Last 32 with a 7-5 7-6(5) win over the left-handed Czech.
The Dane, who was handed a wild-card into this year’s tournament, wiped away happy tears as the reality set in, that she had just won her first match over a Top 20 player since the 2018 WTA Finals, also against Kvitova, which snapped a streak of 7 consecutive losses.
“I mean, being out here in Arthur Ashe Stadium night session playing in front of a packed crowd, I mean, this couldn’t be better,” an elated Wozniacki said after her win. “It’s a dream come true.
“If you’d asked me three years ago I’d have said, ‘I’ll never be back here playing on this court’. But to be back and to beat to the World No 11 feels very, very special.
“It really means so much to me. I love New York. I love this court. I love everything about the city and playing here.
“As soon as I came here over a week ago, I already instantly felt so comfortable in these courts and knew that I could play some great tennis and I’d be dangerous in the draw.”
Wozniacki was relatively steady from start to finish, turning in a consistent performance that allowed her to capitalise on Kvitova’s mistakes at crucial points in the match.
Despite missing 2 match points, Wozniacki buckled down in the tiebreak and unearthed a killer instinct against her friend.
Any time Kvitova pulled ahead, Wozniacki never trailed too far behind before she bulldozed her way back into contention.
After Kvitova took a 4-2 lead in the first set, Wozniacki pulled even, slammed 2 aces to close out the 11th game and then took the frame after the Czech hit into the net.
“It’s always tough to play Caro, even she didn’t play for a few years,” Kvitova said. “Didn’t feel that she was away.”
Wednesday’s match was the latest in an extended rivalry between Wozniacki and Kvitova, which dates back to 2009, and the Czech still holds an 8-7 lead in their head-to-head record.
While Kvitova made 38 winners to Wozniacki’s 22, the Dane played the tidier match, striking only hit 13 unforced errors, while the former World No 2 tripled hers at 39.
Wozniacki took a 6-5 lead by holding with 2 consecutive aces, and, in the next game, she struck a sturdy return on her 2nd set point, forcing an error and ending the opening frame after 63 minutes.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova saved 2 match points at 5-4 in the second set before the players moved into the breaker where a return winner gave Wozniacki a commanding 4-1 lead, and she held on from there, closing out the match after a long return by the Czech.
“It feels amazing to beat such an amazing player and champion like Petra,” Wozniacki said. “Obviously, I knew coming into the match that I had a chance to win, and I believe in myself.
“At the same time, she obviously has had a great year. She’s 11 in the world, loves to play on hard courts.”
The 33-year-old Dane, who was a US Open finalist in 2009 and 2014, will face World No 433 Jennifer Brady in the 3rd-round on Friday.
Brady, who outlasted No 24 seed Magda Linette from Poland, 6-1 2-6 6-2, on Wednesday night, is a former World No 13, who also only came back to the tour this summer, having missed two years of play due to persistent injuries.
The American’s match was moved from Court 17 to Louis Armstrong Stadium after Ajla Tomljanovic, who had only just returned after undergoing knee surgery in January, pulled out ahead of her match with Elena Rybakina, who moved into round 3 with a walkover.
It was not Tomljanovic’s surgically-repaired knee that forced her withdrawal, but arm soreness.
“My body still needs time to adjust to the intensity of high-level tennis,” the Aussie posted on social media. “Don’t wanna make this a sad post even though I did pull out today.
“I’m proud of the work we did to get here but it was just a little too early. Thank you to the NY fans for all your support, Monday afternoon was good for my soul. Back to work for me.”
The 29-year-old was forced to withdraw from the Australian Open on the eve of the tournament in January, and also sat out the French Open and Wimbledon, which saw her ranking tumble to No 127 in the world.
Brady, meanwhile, thrilled the Armstrong crowd with her 3-set win over Linette, the Australian Open semi-finalist.
“After the first set, I almost started cramping because of the nerves,” said Brady in her on-court interview. “I was getting goosebumps.
“I started looking ahead and she was playing better. Luckily, I recovered and found my way in the third set.”
Brady returned to action earlier this month after missing 2 years with knee and foot injuries.
In just her 4th tournament back, Brady used the raw power on her forehand and big first serves in the opening set, also dominating the tempo of the baseline rallies and leaving her more experienced opponent to scramble around the court.
Just when it seemed the American would coast to victory with a set and 2-1 lead, Linette stunned the crowd with a complete turnaround, extending the baseline rallies and reducing her unforced error count.
The Pole secured her first meaningful lead of the match with a scorching forehand winner to break Brady at 3-2 in the second set, and raced through the last 5 games to send their battle into a decider.
It appeared that Brady’s lack of match play might catch up with her, but she dug deep for another dramatic turn of events in the final set, striking first in the decider by ending a lengthy rally with a forehand winner to break Linette for a 2-1 lead.
Brady was now routinely painting the lines with her forehand, and often followed that into the net for winning volleys to go on a 4-game run and, eventually, she closed out the match with a big first serve after 2 hours and 5 minutes, finishing the night with 26 winners to 37 errors.
Her win marks the first time since the 2021 French Open that she has won 2 consecutive matches at a tournament.
In another Wednesday night result, Jelena Ostapenko produced a resilient performance against Elina Avanesyan, outlasting the Russian in an absorbing three-set contest, 6-3 5-7 7-5, and the Latvian 20th seed next meets American Bernarda Pera.