Like the New York weather, Karolina Pliskova’s game is warming up nicely. After a weekend of cool temperatures and steady rain, play at the US Open began in glorious sunshine here on Monday and the world No 1 responded with her most convincing performance yet.
Pliskova, last year’s runner-up, had been taken to three sets in her first three matches, but there was never a moment’s doubt about the outcome of her meeting with Jennifer Brady. Pliskova beat the American 6-1, 6-0 in just 47 minutes in the shortest completed singles match of the tournament so far.
The bad weather had dampened spirits on Labor Day weekend here, but the second Monday promised to be the warmest day of the whole tournament, with temperatures forecast to rise to 30C by mid-afternoon.Pliskova might therefore have been grateful for the early start as the 25-year-old Czech opened play in Arthur Ashe Stadium for the third time at this tournament. Her other match was also on the main show court but was the second of the day.
Brady, the world No 91, had never reached the main draw here until this year but had progressed to the last 16 with victories over Andrea Petkovic, Barbora Strycova and Monica Niculescu.
However, the 22-year-old’s fourth encounter with a European opponent was a very different story. Pliskova was on her game from the start, serving with confidence and hitting her ground strokes with impressive power.
Brady won only 22 points in the whole match and dropped her serve six times. Her first serve found the court on only 16 occasions, on 12 of which she went on to lose the point. Pliskova was merciless with her returns and hit 23 winners to Brady’s six.
Pliskova, who had been match point down against Zhang Shuai in the previous round, went 4-0 up in double-quick time and converted her first set point when Brady double-faulted. The Czech did not drop a single point on her first serve in the opening set.
The second set followed a similar pattern as Pliskova raced into a 5-0 lead before Brady finally threatened to win another game when she went 40-15 up on her own serve. However, Pliskova promptly won the next four points and took her first match point when a bold return forced Brady into a forehand error.
“I knew I had been match point down in my last match so I just wanted to try to play a little bit better,” Pliskova said afterwards. “But I think the end of that match helped me to go through tough moments and today I was much better.”
Brady was making her debut in Arthur Ashe Stadium and it was no surprise that she had been nervous. “I just wanted to take advantage of that,” Pliskova said. “This was my fourth match on this court this year so I’m enjoying playing here, as always. Hopefully I’ll be here for my next match.”
With Petra Kvitova already through to the quarter-finals and Safarova playing later in the day, these are clearly good times for Czech tennis. “I think it’s very good for Czech tennis that there are so many of us, even in the doubles,” Pliskova said. “We’ve also played pretty well in the Fed Cup."
Pliskova, who might need to win the title here to stay on top of the world rankings at the end of the tournament, works with David Kotyza, who was Kvitova’s coach when she won her two Wimbledon titles.
Given that she had had so little time on court in her fourth-round match, did Pliskova think Kotyza might want her to head straight to the practice court afterwards? “Unless David wants me to do that, I don’t want to go and hit any more,” Pliskova said with a smile.
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