CoCo Vandeweghe kept her hopes alive at the US Open on Labor Day by defeating Lucie Safarova in straight sets and setting up a quarter-final meeting with Karolina Pliskova.
Vandeweghe, claiming her 6th victory in 13 defeats against a left-hander, started with back to back double faults offering Safarova a break point but the American rescued it with a big serve that the Czech pushed wide.
The same scene repeated at 2-2 when Vandeweghe gifted a second chance to break with a forehand long before saving that, delivering one of her massive forehands that Safarova struggled to counter.
“I had to show her that I was going to hustle down a few more extra balls CoCo Vanderweghe
The Czech, bidding for her first quarter-final at US Open, had beaten Vandeweghe three times in their four previous meetings.
The American’s advantage slipped early in the second set, as she dropped serve for the only time in the match to fall behind 2-3.
She quickly regrouped to level the set and forced the tiebreak, winning the 10th of the 12 she has played this year to seal a very convincing performance with her sixth ace.
The Czech had started strongly in the tiebreak, forcing her opponent into two baseline errors for an early mini-break at 2-1, but those would prove be the last points of the match for Safarova, as Vandeweghe again raised her game, quickly reeling off six straight points and capped it with a booming ace out wide on the deuce court, to seal the victory.
Vandeweghe recently recruited Pat Cash as her coach, whose mantra is ‘progress, not perfection’.
At 25, she is playing the finest tennis of her career saying her plan, especially during some of the match’s ‘stickier’ moments, was simple.
“I had to show her that I was going to hustle down a few more extra balls,” she said.
Now, a quarter-finalist at the US Open, she faces the top-seed on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s much different than any other match,” Vandeweghe said.
“If you’re so in awe of someone being No 1 in the world, then I don’t think you’re going into a match all focused and all there.”
Vandeweghe, who is known for displaying her tempestuous emotions, looked mostly calm against Safarova.
As for Safarova, she said: “I gave my best out there today and I fought, and she was just a bit better than me.
“She wasn’t doing as many mistakes.”
The Czech advanced to the finals at the 2015 French Open before losing to Serena Williams, her ranking climbing to as high as No 5 by the end of the year, but then fell ill to a bacterial infection that sidelined her for about six months.
There were moments, she said in recent interviews, when she feared that she would never walk again, let alone return to competitive tennis.
Pliskova steamrollers Brady
Top seed Karolina Pliskova has not looked entirely at her best over the course of this year’s first week of the US Open, but she clicked into sharp focus on Labor Day in New York City to kick off the second.
If it wasn’t for saving match point in her third-rounder against No 27 Zhang Shuai, the Czech would have already be on her way home, with no chance of maintaining her No 1 ranking but she survived to fight another day, against America’s Jennifer Brady.
Brady had never played on a stage as large as Arthur Ashe Stadium and the cruel shadow dissecting the court did not help her one jot.
Pliskova, however, stepped onto into the arena looking every inch the World No 1.
Brady’s strong run at the US Open was ended abruptly as Pliskova dominated proceedings to win through 6-1 6-0 in just 46 minutes.
It was a cruel lesson for the American, who was left trying to take the positives out of reaching the fourth round of a Grand Slam event for the second time this year.
Playing under a clear blue sky, Brady held serve only once, in the fifth game of the first set, and was simply overpowered by her hard-hitting Czech opponent.
Pliskova had needed back-to-back three-setters to get to the last 16, including having to save that match point against Zhang in the third round, but she fired 23 winners on Monday while the outclassed Brady, the 91st-ranked player, managed just 6 in her quick-fire demolition.
Brady’s usually strong serve betrayed her and she got only 16 of 41 first serves into play.
“I felt like she was playing pretty well today. I didn’t play my best. Maybe I gave her the opportunity to play well,” said Brady.
“But, you know, I think she was hitting her spots and her serves well. Yeah, she came out playing, I felt, like the No. 1 player.
“I have had some good wins,” said Brady, who defeated Andrea Petkovic, No 23 Barbora Strycova, and Monica Niculescu to reach the fourth round.
“It was good for me to get a feel for what it’s like playing on a big stage, playing on Ashe. Next time I play on it, I’ll know what to expect.
“I think I should give myself some credit, too….not dwell on this and learn from it.”
As for Pliskova, she observed: “I think it was one of my best matches this year,” she said.
“But the opponent was not the best. Definitely she can play better than she was playing today.”
“Sometimes you just need to have some of those matches where you just really get through it,” Pliskova said of her experience in the early rounds here.
“You don’t even know why, but the game improves so much. I didn’t change anything. I didn’t even practice yesterday. So there is nothing really that I did different. But I just felt much better.”
Pliskova needs to reach the final to retain her top spot in the world rankings, while Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, the fourth seed, remains in a three-way tussle with her, as well as the already-eliminated Garbiñe Muguruza, the only players left of the original eight contenders going into the Open.
Svitolina faced Madison Keys, the 15th seeded American, in the final night session match of the day.