Ostrava | Parks and McNally cause upsets at AGEL Open

Two Americans caused upsets at the AGEL Open 2022 in Ostrava on Thursday, leaving just one of the 8 seeds alive in the 2nd-round, and that is World No 1 Iga Swiatek.

I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match. I was coming from Parma last week, and everyone said, how are you going to switch surfaces like that? But surfaces don’t really affect me. Indoor hard is my strength. Alycia Parks

In fact, 3 more top seeds fell on Day 4, as the World No 4 Anett Kontaveit from Estonia retired at 7-6(3), 1-0 to Czech Tereza Martincova due to a lower back injury, while 4th-seeded Maria Sakkari lost to America’s Alycia Parks, 5-7 7-5 7-5, and her fellow qualifier and countrywoman Caty McNally also scored a big win defeating another Czech wild-card, Karolina Muchova, 6-1 3-6 6-1.

Defending champion Kontaveit, the World No 3, received a bye to face Martincova, ranked 78, which she did in front of a Czech home crowd looking to avenge their player’s loss at her hands in the 2nd-round of last week’s Tallinn tournament, when it had been the Estonian’s turn to play before a partisan audience.

On Thursday, Kontaveit went 0-3 down before pulling back for a 4-3 lead when both settled, and things moved on the tiebreak, which Martincova led in from the start, going 4-1 up before taking it with the loss of just 3 points.

After having her service broken in the first game of the second set, Kontaveit pulled out, citing that the issue had been a lower back injury, although the severity of the injury is not yet known.

Parks, who is just 21-years old and ranked 144, is into her first career WTA quarter-final following huge wins over Karolina Pliskova and Sakkari, her first over a Top 20 and a Top-10 player.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said “I was coming from Parma last week, and everyone said, how are you going to switch surfaces like that? But surfaces don’t really affect me. Indoor hard is my strength.”

Parks possesses formidable power, which tallied her 59 winners against Sakkari, including 15 aces, and she kept her unforced error count down to 26, while the Greek 4th seed could only manage 9 winners throughout.

The American is in Ostrava alone, leaving her team back at home in Florida, and she also demonstrated superb resilience to come from behind and weather several nail-biting moments on her way to a memorable 2-hour, 44-minute win.

As both settled into the match, they exchanged breaks in the first 2 games, after which there were only 3 further breaks, each coming at the tail end of a set.

At 5-5 in the opener, a pair of Parks double-faults opened the door for Sakkari, who came up with some superb passing shots en route to the crucial break, but the American shook off the disappointment of losing the tight opening act, keeping the match competitive with some emphatic holds.

As the match went on, Parks’ prowess at net became critical and a brilliant stab volley staved off a break point at 4-4 in the second, before she went on to break Sakkari after a 3-deuce tussle in the final game of the set.

In the decider, it was Sakkari’s turn to escape at a similar juncture as the Greek saved 4 break points to hold for 4-4, but Parks came up with some of her finest shots of the day to keep her nose in front, and pounced again at 6-5 when errant Sakkari forehands gave her an opening, and the American converted her first match point with a searing forehand winner on the line.

Parks will now face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who did not have to a hit a ball on Thursday as Belinda Bencic, the 6th seed from Switzerland, gave her a walkover because of a left foot injury

Krejcikova has battled injury and illness herself throughout 2022, falling out of the Top 20 from a career-high of No 2, but the Czech has returned to form this month and is now on a 6-match winning streak following a top-quality title run in Tallinn last week.

Caty McNally got past local wild-card Karolina Muchova in 3 sets and meets World No 1 Iga Swiatek in the quarter-finals in Ostrava

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

20-year old McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, is also into her first WTA quarter-final and will face top top seed Swiatek, whom she beat in the 2018 French Open junior semi-finals, 3-6 7-6(6) 6-4.

Swiatek & McNally teamed up to win the 2018 Roland Garros girls’ doubles title at the same event.

No 5 seed Daria Kasatkina fell to fellow Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-1 7-6(1), in the closing match of the day’s play.

After a one-sided first set, the second proved competitive but the unseeded Alexandrova won 6 straight points from 1-1 in the tiebreak to seal the win, despite having been 1-3 down.

She needed 97 minutes to defeat Kasatkina, and the second set was nearly 3 times as long as the first, and she has now won 7 straight matches, having landed her 3rd career Hologic WTA Tour singles title in Seoul, and then defeated former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka for the first time on arrival in Ostrava.

Alexandrova was the more aggressive player in the match, as she totalled 45 winners and 35 unforced errors while Kasatkina’s count was just 11 winners to 15 miscues, and she also broke Kasatkina’s serve 6 times.



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