US Open | Wozniacki crashes out – Sharapova marches on
The state-of-the-art Louis Armstrong Stadium in New York may be a wonder for fans but it is fast building a reputation among players as a graveyard court.
The latest casualty is Caroline Wozniacki, who was sent packing in the second round of the US Open on Thursday night by Lesia Tsurenko, a 29-year-old Ukrainian.
The 2nd-seeded Dane followed World No.1 and top-ranked Simona Halep, Monday’s shock first-round exit at Flushing Meadows.
I saw balls I felt like I could finish, like I could hit big on, But she played well. Got a lot of balls back. Waited for the short ball and played a lot of angles Caroline Woznacki
With both the top two seeds now out of the US Open, Sloane Stephens, the defending champion, assumes the role of title favourite but with so many upsets and dangerous floaters in the women’s draw, the form book hardly seems relevant anymore.
Wozniacki, the Australian Open champion, suffered a 6-4 6-2 defeat at the hands of the World No.36, who made the slower start on Armstrong, losing the first two games.
Tsurenko then made regular inroads into Wozniacki’s service games and took charge of the match despite a problem with her right arm that prompted a medical time-out in the opening set, and continuing to have it massaged during the second.
It didn’t hamper her closing out one of the biggest wins of her career, though.
There were five breaks of serve in the first set with Tsurenko edging the breaks 3-2, and the Ukrainian ran away with things in the second set with two more.
Under the New York lights, Tsurenko took over after trailing Wozniacki 1-3, winning 11 of the next 14 games by playing with more energy and aggression than the two-time US Open finalist.
Wozniacki’s trademark consistency was absent, and Tsurenko’s bold play from the baseline helped her win the majority of the rallies over nine shots, usually Wozniacki’s bread and butter.
Tsurenko threw in more unforced errors than Wozniacki, 38 to 35, but also 20 winners to her opponent’s 6.
At times, the rallies were beautiful displays of shotmaking, but Tsurenko came up with more clean winners, and Wozniacki struggled to wear down her opponent.
“I saw balls I felt like I could finish, like I could hit big on,” she said. “But she played well. Got a lot of balls back. Waited for the short ball and played a lot of angles.”
Once Tsurenko had a one-set lead, she began playing free-flowing tennis, smoothly moving in and finishing points mid-court with sure forehand winners.
“I was not nervous,” Tsurenko said in her post-match interview on the court. “I was feeling the atmosphere from my team and everyone who came to watch this match. I was hearing my name a lot.”
Wozniacki later said: “Guess Wimbledon used to have a ‘Graveyard Court’. Maybe that is going to be the new ‘graveyard court’. I think it’s a little too early to tell.”
This was the second year in a row Wozniacki has gone out in the second round.
“I felt like I’d been practising really well, playing really well for the week leading up to the tournament, but it obviously wasn’t an ideal preparation,” the 28-year-old Dane said after her defeat.
“I usually play more matches and just get into the rhythm. But I felt like I did everything right under the circumstances. She played really well. I was trying to find everything that I could today, but it just wasn’t going that way.
“She played the game that I was supposed to be playing. She got a lot of balls back. She played with the angles. She waited for the short ball. When the short ball came, she played aggressive. She went back and kept the ball in play when she had to.”
Tsurenco next meets Katerina Siniakova, the unseeded Czech who prevailed over Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-3 6-7(3) 7-6(4) for a psot in the quarters.
Over on Arthur Ashe Stadium another former US Open champion, Maria Sharapova, stayed alive under the lights, beating Sorana Cirstea, 6-2 7-5.
The 22nd seed found herself 2-4 down in the second set, but she broke back to level it at 4-4, traded another couple of breaks, and claimed the decisive break in game 13.
It wasn’t always pretty, particularly in the first set, with Sharapova committing 7 double faults in her first 2 service games, yet still managed to go up a 3-0 lead.
Both players combined for 34 unforced errors, and Cirstea used up all her challenges by the second game.
Sharapova was just the more solid player when it counted, winning 2 of her 3 break point opportunities, while Cirstea went 0 for 6.
The second set was nearly an inverse of the first with Cirstea finally breaking the Sharapova serve, then saving 6 break points over her next 4 service games as she began to hit more cleanly and blitzed winners past her opponent.
Sharapova withstood the barrage and eventually broke back as Cirstea double faulted on the Russian’s 7th break chance.
In the very next game, Cirstea flummoxed Sharapova with the pace of her shots and broke right back, but she was never able to hold serve again, handing the Russian yet another victory under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Sharapova’s win sets up an intriguing third round match with 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
The two have only played once before, on the clay in Rome, where Sharapova won in a tight three-setter, 6-7 6-4 7-5.
“It was a real battle [in Rome]. It could have gone either way,” recalled Sharapova. “It was a really long, physical match. It was our first ever meeting. It was a chance to see and feel each other’s game.
“I was really impressed by her game. She’s young and fearless, comes out swinging.
“She’s a Grand Slam champion, so that speaks for itself. She’s got that experience in Grand Slams already. I think she likes the matchup of playing against me. Both quite aggressive players. But I do, as well.”
Sharapova now holds an unbelievable 21-0 record under the lights in Flushing Meadows.
“It only gets tougher from here,” she said. “Being seeded in the 20s means you’re going to get Grand Slam winners in the third round, as I have. But I’m looking forward to it.”
After two rounds played at the US Open, 4 of the top 10 seeds have exit the tournament.
Besides Wozniacki, Simona Halep, Garbiñe Muguruza and Daria Kasatkina have all crashed out and Sharapova may be hoping she gets posted to Armstrong next time round to take on the No 10 Ostapenko.