Top Seeds Djokovic, Pliskova Dominate on Day One of “Closed” US Open, Schwartzman, Isner, Gauff Lose
(August 31, 2020) NEW YORK – Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Karolina Pliskova opened day one of the “closed” US Open with wins on Monday.
This year’s US Open is closed to fans and the players are in a “bubble” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Novak Djokovic kept his year perfect at 24-0 with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 win over Damir Dzumhur. With the exception of the middle of the second set, the Serbian player dominated the match.
“I came out, played really well the first set,” Djokovic said to media. “Second set I lost my focus, kind of got stressed out a couple times, screamed. That’s obviously still there, regardless of the empty stadium. But this is what I bring to the court. I bring a lot of intensity, energy. Sometimes my reactions may not be so positive, but I try to bounce back.
“It was tough. I mean, second set, there was a lot of long rallies, and he wasn’t missing much so it was kind of anybody’s game.”
Djokovic will take on Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the second round.
“He does have a really good serve and forehand, two really big weapons,” Djokovic said about his next opponent. “I had some really good matches against him in the past, Wimbledon, tough four-setter a few years ago. He doesn’t feel so much pressure I think playing on the big court. He actually likes the challenge. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a really hard worker, puts a lot of hours on and off the court into perfecting his game.
“His results were kind of up and down a little bit, but I think he does have the game and the potential to be in the top 20 without a doubt, where I expect him to be soon. So it’s going to be a tough one.
“I’m sure he has not so much to lose in that match. It’s important for me to start off well, the way I did today.”
Pliskova jumped out to a 4-1 lead over Anhelina Kalinina of the Ukraine, lost three games in a row, and then won the last eight straight games for a 6-4, 6-0 win.
“I thought actually I played quite good until 4-1,” said the Czech. “Even after I think I could still make, there were a couple close calls and balls which I could make, so I think I could still go up to 5-2 at least. But somehow it was a little bit shaky there.”
“The second set was much, much better.”
Fourth seed Naomi Osaka needed three sets to stop her countrywoman Misaki Doi 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 in the last night match of evening session in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Osaka came on the court wearing a face mask with the name Breonna Taylor. Taylor was a Louisville EMT shot and killed in her home by the police.
“For me, I just want to spread awareness,” Osaka said. “I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor’s story. Maybe they’ll like Google it or something. For me, just spreading awareness. I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.
Osaka, who won the US Open in 2018 is coming off a left hamstring injury which forced her to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open final.
“It was very difficult,” Osaka said in her on-court interview. “I kind of expected it because of the first round nerves, and she’s also a very tough opponent. I knew there was a chance it could get really long.”
“The main thing I wanted to bring into this tournament was just staying calm,” she told media. “I feel like it’s a bit tough to play players when you know they’re going to raise their level. Sometimes they feel like they have nothing to lose. So for me, I felt like that’s what she did in the second set.”
There were a few upsets on the men’s side of the draw. No. 9 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina let a two-set lead slip as he lost to No. 75 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain in an almost 4-hour match 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 7-5. John Isner the 16th seed, lost to his US countryman Steve Johnson in five sets.
The only women’s seed to fall was No. 32 Rebecca Peterson 7-6(1), 6-4 to Kirsten Flipkens.
No. 18 seed Dusan Lajovic. Fell to Egor Gerasimov 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
No. 30 Kristina Mladenovic of France had problems with her serve but survived 18-year-old American Hailey Baptiste 7-5, 6-2.
The Frenchwoman is in a bubble within a bubble as she was one of a number of players near Benoit Paire who was withdrawn from the tournament for testing positive for the coronavirus.
“I’m allowed to play my match, literally allowed to do nothing else,” she told media. Mladenovic had played cards with Paire.
“It was very emotional, lots of things going on. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say, and what I’m not,” she said after he match.
“We got some bad news a couple of days ago, and since then for me it was kind of a nightmare. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to play here. I’ve been myself put out of the bubble, kind of a bubble in a bubble, so I’m just very grateful I can be on the court today.”
Baptiste told media that didn’t know her opponent had close contact with Paire. Baptiste said that she was in an elevator a couple of times with Paire and that she feels a lot of other players were around him.
The 31st seed and former semifinalist, Anastasija Sevastova held of the surging Coco Gauff 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. The Latvian held a 6-3, 4-2 lead when the American charged back to send the match to a decider.
This is Gauff’s earliest exit from a major. Last year she reached the third round of US Open.
“I wish I would play like this when I was 16 years old,” the Latvian said with a big smile.
“Great player. Nothing more to say. I think she maybe started a bit slower than me, but she was getting better as the match went on. That’s so important I think in tennis.
“Yeah, in the end I think third set she played her best tennis. She was serving better, moving better. It was tough, yeah. Fortunately I stayed calm in the third set and managed to win, to close it out.”
“I could have played better today,” said the 16-year-old. “Just going to get back to work and get ready for the French Open.”
“Right now losses hurt. I mean, I’m disappointed. I’m going to go back to practice tomorrow and hopefully do my best in doubles, then prepare for singles in Europe.”
The sixth seed Petra Kvitova advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Irina-Camelia Begu.
“I’m glad that I had a couple of matches before to kind of get used to these new things, which as you mentioned, the towels, it’s without a crowd,” she said to media.
“Luckily I played one match in the tournament before, Cincinnati. I played some exhibitions in Prague, as well. Well, we had to hold our towels, and so I’m kind of player who always going for the towels like many times.
“So, yeah, some things which I really had to get used to, to be in the bubble of course, as well. It’s something totally different, which I was normally doing, you know, going out for the coffee, sitting in Central Park. Suddenly this is not the option.”
2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber beat Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 6-4 to reach the second round.
The 17th seed talked about how strange it was to play without fans.
“Of course it’s a little bit weird to play without fans and without the support and the atmosphere on the center courts, but it’s kind of a little bit the feeling when you play, like, practice matches against the players, but of course you know it’s like a serious game.
It is more, for me today, it was more also mentally to prepare for the match that I know we play without fans and all the situation. Yeah, it was not so easy at the beginning, but then, yeah, you get used to it a little bit.
No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas demolished Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-1, 6-1. The Greek talked about his special relationship with towels.
“I use my towel a lot when I play. The biggest struggle with the towel is when you want to use it before returning, and that’s a big concern, because I would like to use it more often, but I can’t really because I’m disrupting my opponent’s rhythm. As it says in the rule book, you should play by your opponent’s serve rhythm. Which sometimes, yeah, it’s not really cheating, but the opponent is waiting for you before serving.
“Yeah, for me, it has huge importance, the towel. I use it very often. It gives me time to think, gives me time to refresh myself and think about my tactics.
“So I mostly use it when I serve and when I’m — yeah, when I serve. That’s the most amount of times that I get to use my towel.”
“I have sort of like a history with the towel,” he added. I used to have a towel when I was three, four years old and I would always carry it around. It was like my toy, basically.”
“The towel resembles something special in my life. It does provide us some sort of amount of comfort. And also, yeah, it’s not very comfortable playing all sweaty and having sweat drip from your face and get to your eyes.
“Having it there is very important for us.”
No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev extended his record over former US Open finalist Kevin Anderson to 6-0 beating the South African 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.
No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov needed four sets to stop Sebastian Korda of the U.S. Korda is the son of Australian winner Petr Korda.
The Canadian is working with former US Open semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny.
“Misha was definitely one of the players I looked up to when I was really youn,” said the Canadian. “He was one of the first players I actually had a picture with.
“I remember him practicing at Rogers Cup and I followed his match. I followed his match. I remember watching him beat (Andreas) Seppi in Toronto.
“It’s pretty crazy to be working with him, first of all, but just to get to know him as a person and as a coach, and I feel like he’s helped my game so much. He’s definitely made me a smarter player out there. I feel like he was very smart when he played. He was just, his positioning, the way he read the game, it’s just another level for me.”
Other men’s seeds advancing were: No. 7 David Goffin, No. 13 Cristian Garin, No. 19 Taylor Fritz, No. 20 Pablo Carrena Busta, No. 24 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 27 Borna Coric, No. 28 Jan-Lennard Struuf, and No. 32 Adrian Mannarino.
Other women’s seeds making their way to the third round include No. 8 Petra Martic, No. 11 Elena Rybakina, No. 12 Marketa Vondrousova, No. 13 Alison Riske, No. 14 Anett Kontaveit, No. 24 Magda Linette. No. 28, Jennifer Brady,
No. 23 seed Yulia Putintseva knocked out the youngest person in the women’s draw, 15-year-old southpaw Robin Montgomery of the US 6-1, 6-3.