US Open Day 2 | Pliskova starts her campaign in the shadow of Sharapova
Like the Big Apple, the US Open has a chaotic, flashy and electric vibe — the night sessions under lights, the flamboyant outfits and the gruelling hard courts make for a thrilling two weeks.
Despite the withdrawal of so many stellar names, the US Open set an all-time opening day and night attendance record on Monday, with a combined 61,839 fans coming through the gates of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, hardly surprising with Shania Twain headlining the opening ceremony and Maria Sharapova’s return.
It was a sellout crowd, in fact – 38,068 during the day and 23,771 for the night session.
Yes, actually, guys, I’m engaged. It happened after Wimbledon, when I had the time off, so it’s almost, yeah, a month and a half.Karolina Pliskova
Day 2 dawned with no British women left in the draw and the departure of the second seed, Simona Halep, leaving her conqueror, Sharapova, as a potential finalist if she can stay the course.
The Russian is the controversial dark horse eclipsing the eight, now six, players vying for the World No 1 spot at the conclusion of the final Grand Slam of the year.
Wearing her little black dress designed by Riccardo Tisci and Nike, embellished with Swarovski crystal and lace, Sharapova had put on a fabulous display the night before.
According to Vogue, the dress retails for $500 and a matching black bomber jacket is $700 at Nike stores.
Karolina Pliskova, however, heads the top quarter of the women’s draw and in the light of day looked determined to stamp her authority on proceedings.
The Czech player made the final of the US Open in 2016 with gutsy wins over Venus and Serena Williams and then followed that up with the most consistent 12 months on the tour that saw her clinch the World No 1 ranking.
She has held the top spot for seven weeks, albeit by the narrowest of margins, currently just 5 points ahead of Halep, but the departure of the second seed potentially adds a bit of space between them and she needs to reach at least the final in New York to hold on it.
During US Open media day at the weekend, she confirmed that she is engaged after being quizzed about the ring on her finger.
“Yes, actually, guys,” Pliskova said. “I’m engaged.”
While the 25-year-old Czech did not want to get into any stories about her engagement to Michal Hrdlicka, she did reveal when it took place.
“It happened after Wimbledon, when I had the time off,” Pliskova said. “So it’s almost, yeah, a month and a half.”
Pliskova began her first Grand Slam as the World No 1 at 11am on Tuesday inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, taking on Magda Linette, the No 72 from Poland, an opponent whom she held a 4-1 record against.
This was Linette’s 11th main draw appearance at a Grand Slam, with her best result coming this year at Roland Garros, where she advanced to the third round.
With rain forecast to threaten to disrupt Day 2, these two players were assured of completion since Ashe has a roof and it came into play after Pliskova pocketed the first set, 6-2 after just 38 minutes.
After the brief delay it was business as usual and a relaxed Pliskova continued her route to victory by simply serving well and out-pacing her opponent for a comfortable 6-2 6-2 win in just over an hour and 18 minutes.
“I felt a little bit nervous walking on this court, especially after last year and the memories I have here,” admitted Pliskova.
Zhang Shuai, who made the Australian Open quarters in 2016, and France’s Kristina Mladenovic are Pliskova’s potential opponents in the third and fourth rounds respectively.
Mladenovic had a brilliant run in the first six months but has faded away since the French Open.
The second-highest seed in Pliskova’s quarter is 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is seeded eight.
The Russian made the quarters in Cincinnati in the North American hard court season, but has a tricky draw to tackle in New York.
Kuznetsova faces the dangerous Marketa Vondrousova in her opening round, and also has 26th seed Anett Kontaveit, former No 5 Lucie Safarova, big-serving CoCo Vandeweghe and the crafty Agnieszka Radwanksa looming in her section.
If Kuznetsova makes it through to the quarter-final, we may be treated to yet another three-set thriller between Pliskova and her.
Elsewhere, the French Champion, Jelena Ostapenko, ran off with the first set in 31 minutes but got pegged back by Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena to 1-5 when the threatened rain briefly stopped play.
They were able to resume after a short break and the Spaniard took the second set after 38 minutes, the Latvian’s percentages dropping alarmingly.
Despite 32 unforced errors to her opponents 19 up to that point, Ostapenko settled sufficiently to hold at the start of the decider and broke the Spaniard to go up 2-0, but it was a short-lived recovery when Arruabarrena immediately responded and broke back to love, the Latvian gifting her a double fault to offer up the game.
Back on serve in a light drizzle, Ostapenko broke again for a 3-1 lead when play was suspended for a second time.
The problem with hard courts when it rains is not the surface but the lines and one would think, in this day and age, that some solution could be found to fix the paint on those.
After holding the players in their chairs for a while, they eventually left Court 17, as did all those competing on the outside courts and the show courts not named Ashe.
It was barely midday and the US Open had, once again succumbed to rain.