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By Erik Gudris | Monday, August 31, 2020

Karolina Pliskova

Top-seeded Karolina Pliskova earned a straight sets US Open opening-round win in an almost empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

The scoreline was expected, but definitely not the surroundings as top women’s seed Karolina Pliskova advanced into the US Open second round.

Pliskova earned a 6-4, 6-0 win over Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina in just 62 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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Having the top seed play the opening day first match inside the US Open’s biggest stadium is always a given. What was definitely new was the fact that 23,000 plus seat arena, the sport’s biggest, was nearly empty due to no fans being on site this year.

Arthur Ashe stadium, which feels like a huge canyon for both players and fans, can always be challenging to play in for anyone. But Pliskova managed to keep her focus on the match and her opponent, and not the rows and rows of empty seats.

When asked in her post-match interview on not having a crowd, Pliskova said, “I would definitely choose people here, but the first match I was like ‘should I cheer myself or be more calm?’ I felt very strange so I think the experience of playing a match without people quite helped me. For sure I prefer to have people around me.”

The former world No. 1 said Ashe Stadium Court is a bit slower than the outer courts.

“I actually felt much better in the match," Pliskova said. "Of course the beginning was a little bit tough when I lost first serve in the first game. But I think my game was good for the first round. To be honest I like this court, because it’s a bit slower from the other courts which I like.”

Pliskova, who lost her opening round match at the Cincinnati event held the previous week at the US Open site, jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set. But errors crept into her game and she soon found herself level at 4-all.

The tall Czech, a former US Open finalist in 2016, is known for playing streaky tennis. That was the case again as she reeled off eight consecutive points to close out the set 6-4.

Pliskova took command early of the second set, helped in large part by strong returning. She earned a quick service break, and that allowed her to loosen up on her serve. Soon, she raced away with a 6-4, 6-0 victory in just over an hour.

Pliskova and Kalinina shared the same number of unforced errors in the match with 16 each. But Pliskova dominated in the winners category with 26 to just 7 for her opponent.


Outdoor Gym 🦾

A post shared by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on

After the match ended, more surreal moments occurred as pre-recorded crowd noise was played to simulate a crowd cheering the players after the match. Pliskova later did the traditional victory gesture of hitting three tennis balls into the empty upper stands. But, it was for a good cause. If a player can hit a target, $1000 will be donated to the USTA’s Rally to Rebuild campaign.

On if she wished she had more matches going into the US Open, Pliskova replied, “It’s always tough, especially after these five months when I didn’t have many matches. I never had this kind of break before during tournaments. But I had a week of good practice and I felt much better today.”

Pliskova faces Caroline Garcia in the second round.


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