Second Day Of Upsets Highlight Western & Southern Open

WASHINGTON, August 24, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

As the Queen City of Cincinnati came to the borough of Queens, the second day of the Western & Southern Open in New York City presented another slate of quality first round matches and a few second-round clashes, too. And there were a few big upsets, too.

First, women’s World No. 41 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia upset World No. 3 and top seed Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-4. It was the biggest victory of the 23-year-old’s young career and advanced her to the third round.

Just a day after earning a marathon 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 win over Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, which lasted two hours and 46 minutes, Kudermetova came back from down 1-4 in the opening set. Then, she won the final three games of the match to win in one hour and 45 minutes.

Then, World No. 4 and second seed Sofia Kenin from the United States fell to No. 60 Alizé Cornet of France, 6-1, 7-6 (7), when the Frenchwoman converted on her fourth match point after one hour and 43 minutes. It was Cornet’s first Top Five win in two years.

“I’m a fighter,” Cornet said with a big smile beaming on her face during her Zoom virtual press conference with reporters. “I’m always fighting, so that’s nothing new, but tonight was tough because I was 6-1, 5-2 up with two match points. Somehow, I let it go a little bit, and I got really tight. So, I never thought I could win the set the way I did.

“It was a really tight second set, and in the tie-break, oh my God, I was just praying for the best on every single shot.”

As the second day of the week-long ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier 5 tournament began – long before the upsets began piling up – leave it to Alexander Bublik, the 51st-ranked Russia, to surprise everyone – especially his fellow Russian, 11th seed Karen Khachanov – with an unexpected underhanded serve to start the match. It didn’t lead to bigger and better things, thought, as he probably hoped. But it got everyone’s attention.

The World No. 15 Khachanov went on to beat Bublik some 83 minutes later, 6-4, 6-4. It was Khachanov’s first match in 177 days, due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Next, he will face Pablo Carreño Busta from Spain.

“It was my first match in six months,” said Khachanov, as quoted by the ATP website, “and it was a little bit strange for everyone, with the restrictions and no fans. But you can focus on the tennis. I wasn’t expecting to play unbelievably well, but I got the win and am happy to compete again.”

With three Russians in the Top 15 – besides Khachanov, the others are World No. 5 Daniil Medvedev and No. 14 Andrey Rublev – there will be plenty of attention in the coming days. Rublev faced British No. 1 Dan Evans and lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, and defending Western & Southern Open champion Medvedev plays his first match of the tournament against 101st-ranked qualifier Marcos Giron of the United States in Monday’s second round.

Among the early Sunday winners was ninth seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. The diminutive 5-foot-7, 13th-ranked Schwartzman, beat 36th-ranked Casper Ruud of Norway for the fifth straight time. Schwartzman’s 7-6 (2), 6-3 outcome in the one hour and 56-minute match on Court 17 sets up a second-round match with American Reilly Opelka, who at 6-foot-11 will have just slight height advantage – about 40 centimeters – over the Argentine.

“Obviously it’s a different feeling, going on court without people,” said Schwartzman during his virtual press conference after his win. “But in the first set there were a few volunteers and a few friends, players and coaches watching the match.”

In other first round matches: American wild card Tennys Sandgren defeated 46th-ranked Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, 6-3, 7-6 (7); in a matchup of qualifiers, 84th-ranked Marton Fucsovics of Hungary beat No. 109 Norbert Gombos of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-4; 61st-ranked qualifier Aljaz Beene of Slovenia upset No. 13 seed Cristian Garin of Chile, ranked 18th, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-0; and No. 16 seed John Isner of the United States beat 29th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 7-5, 6-4, as the American No. 1 (ranked 21st) fired 10 aces.

Also, No. 43 John Millman of Australia advanced over France’s No. 38 Adrian Mannarino, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), and No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, playing in his first competitive match since testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this summer, defeated No. 42 Ugo Humbert of France, 6-3, 6-4.

Tsitsipas, Goffin reach third round

In one of Sunday’s featured matches on the Grandstand court, World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas easily beat two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson, 6-1, 6-3, in one of two second-round matches. Two years ago, Tsitsipas saved a match point against then-No. 6 Anderson to reach the ATP Masters 1000 Toronto final. It was the rising Greek star’s fourth Top-10 win in as many days following victories over Alexander Zverev, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem. Due to injuries, Anderson’s ranking has dipped to No. 123. Anderson hit just one ace and double-faulted four times and had overall trouble with his service game as Tsitsipas broke the South African four times. Meanwhile, Tsitsipas won 78 percent of his first-serve points and saved all three break points he faced during the 68-minute match. Next he will face the Isner-Millman winner.

“I think the fact that I kept my serve very aggressive and I remained aggressive with my ground strokes helped a lot and I’m very pleased that I was able to maintain my game throughout the entire match, same intensity,” said Tsitsipas, interviewed by ESPN after beating Anderson. “It was an excellent first set.”

In the other second-round match, No. 7 seed David Goffin from Belgium advanced with a 7-6 (6), 6-4 win over No. 33 Borna Coric of Croatia. The 10th-ranked Goffin got the job done in one hour and 49 minutes and he was efficient with his service game, hitting eight aces and winning points on 73 percent of his first serves. He broke Coric three times. Next, Goffin will face either 12th seed Denis Shapovalov (ranked 17th) or 34th-ranked JanLennard Struff from Germany.

Top two women’s seeds both go down

Sunday marked the debuts of the tournament’s top two women’s seeds, No. 1 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic (the 2016 Western & Southern Open champion) and No. 2 Sofia Kenin from the United States. It didn’t go well for either of them.

Pliskova was making her first WTA tournament appearance since February at the Qatar Total Open in Doha, where she lost in the second round. Make it two consecutive tournaments that she’s gone out early. Under the lights on Court 17, despite serving 11 aces and winning points on 75 percent of her first serves, the World No. 3 fell to No. 41 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, 7-5, 6-4. Kudermetova was steady and persistent, earning 13 break points against Pliskova and converting three of them. She outscored Pliskova 86-74 to record her third Top 10 win of her career.

“I feel like I can compete with the best players,” Kudermetova told Tennis TourTalk during her virtual press conference after her win. “It’s a good feeling. I’m really happy with the win.”

During her virtual press conference, Pliskova said Kudermetova “had nothing to lose. She was playing free.”

Reigning Australian Open champion Kenin also made her post-hiatus WTA debut after a summer filled with playing in a charity team exhibition in Charleston, S.C., and World TeamTennis for the Philadelphia Freedoms. Her last WTA action saw her lift her second trophy of the year in Lyon. However, it was Cornet’s night to shine and she beat Kenin, 6-1, 7-6 (7). It was her first win against the 21-year-old American since Cincinnati 2018 after two consecutive setbacks.

Although Kenin managed to save two match points and took it to a tie-break after being down 2-5 15-40 in the final set, Cornet finally put the match away on her fourth match point opportunity.

“I didn’t feel like I had any rhythm; I didn’t feel my game at all,” said Kenin afterward in her brief virtual press conference. “I don’t know what happened. It just wasn’t my day, for sure.”

Lexington champion Brady out in first round

American Jennifer Brady wasn’t able to carry the momentum from winning her first WTA title a week ago at Lexington, Ky., into her next tournament. Instead, it was another American, 83rd-ranked qualifier Jessica Pegula who took out the No. 40 Brady in the first round, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Brady was broken five times by the 2019 Citi Open champion. Brady had trouble with her serve, which was her ally in defeating Jil Teichmann a week ago in the Top Seed Open. She hit just two aces and double faulted four times. Also, Brady was able to win just 58 percent of her first serves and her second-serve percentage dipped to 45 percent. Pegula outpointed Brady 82-78.

Speaking of Teichmann, the 54th-ranked qualifier from Switzerland beat No. 53 Danielle Collins of the United States, 6-3, 6-3.

International flavor among women’s Sunday winners

Women’s No. 12 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, a finalist two weeks ago on clay at Palermo, needed just 55 minutes to advance over lucky loser Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 6-3, 6-1, to set up a second-round match with Teichmann. The 68th-ranked Russian was a replacement for Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters of Belgium, who withdrew on the eve of the tournament with an abdominal injury.

Kontaveit improved her win-loss record to 17-6 this year. She allowed Kasatkina just three points in the final three games of the match. “I thought I managed to play really aggressive and played my game really well,” she said, quoted by the WTA website. “I was serving quite well and I’m really pleased with the win today.”

Of the first five women’s matches that finished Sunday afternoon, each winner represented a different country. Besides Kontaveit, there was 249th-ranked qualifier CiCi Bellis of the United States, who beat another qualifier, No. 118 Oceane Dodin, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (1); 270th-ranked Russian qualifier Vera Zvonareva, who rebounded to defeat No. 35 Magda Linette of Poland, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1; 72nd-ranked qualifier Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, who advanced over No. 58 Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck, 6-2, 6-3; and 14th seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, who easily won over No. 46 Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, 6-0, 6-2, in 59 minutes.

Other winners: 79th-ranked qualifier Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium defeated No. 55 Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-3; 90th-ranked American qualifier Christina McHale beat No. 51 Iga Swiatek of Poland, 6-2, 6-4; 67th-ranked German qualifier Laura Siegemund upset No. 10 seed and 18th-ranked Marketa Vondrousova, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4; No. 48 Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic defeated 117th-ranked qualifier Anna Kalinskaya from Russia, 6-1, 7-5; and No. 33 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan beat No. 36 Zhang Shuai of China, 6-4, 6-3.

Finally, 39th-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia overcame being bageled by 17-year-old Canadian qualifier Leylah Fernandez, then rebounded to beat her 111th-ranked opponent 0-6, 6-4, 6-3; and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens of the United States fell to 1-7 this year with her 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to No. 49 Caroline Garcia of France. All but one of the 37th-ranked Stephens’ losses this year have been in the first round. Her last win came in early March in Monterrey, Mexico.

Around the Western & Southern Open

• Novak Djokovic withdrew from his doubles match Sunday due to neck pain. He and Filip Krajinovic were replaced with the alternate team of Nikola Cacic and Dusan Lajovic, both from Serbia, who beat Americans Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe, 7-5, 3-6, 10-7. The top seed in the singles, Djokovic will face Ricardas Berankis in a second-round match on Monday.

• Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia withdrew from the doubles draw due to a right thigh injury. She was to have teamed with Kristina Mladenovic of France. Instead, the team of Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann have moved in as alternates and will face Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers, both of the United States, on Monday.

• Three qualifying wild cards from the United States looked to win their third match in four days as the first round concluded on Sunday. No. 102 Marcos Giron defeated No. 271 Mackenzie McDonald, 7-6 (2), 7-5, in an all-American match between former UCLA teammates; No. 101 Emil Ruusuvouri of Finland beat No. 224 Sebastian Korda, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-5; and No. 50 Richard Gasquet of France advanced over No. 144 J.J. Wolf, 6-4, 6-4.