A Flair For The Dramatic, Garcia Pulls Off Stunning Upset

WASHINGTON, September 3, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 50 Caroline Garcia has a flair for the dramatic when she plays, and as Wednesday afternoon turned to evening, the Frenchwoman pulled off the biggest upset of the still young 2020 US Open.

Garcia toppled top seed Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic, 6-1, 7-6 (2) in 93 minutes, on Louis Armstrong Stadium. It was the earliest departure by a US Open women’s No. 1 seed since Simona Halep lost in the opening round in 2018 to Kaia Kanepi.

“Past year was a little bit complicated,” said Garcia during her on-court interview, breaking out into a victory dance after beating Pliskova, who was a 2016 US Open finalist. “You always have ups and downs in your career and have to learn from it, and I think it is paying off.”

During her virtual press conference, Garcia, who hit 30 winners, said: “It’s top players, so if you wait for the mistake it’s never going to happen. If you let Pliskova breeze and take your serve, you’re never going to make a return, and then it’s 6-4, 6-4 and you’re done in one hour.

“So you have to make her in trouble – that’s what I liked and it was a great challenge for me. I did well in this challenge and I can take the happiness for it, and now I’m after another one.”

Pliskova is still looking for her first Grand Slam singles title, which according to ESPN analyst Chris Evert may be the result of lacking mental strength. “I don’t think she has a great belief in herself,” said Evert, who commented on the match to a mostly North American audience.

“I think I didn’t play that bad,” said Pliskova. “Maybe you saw a different match. I thought she played great tennis in the first set. I maybe didn’t play my best. I didn’t serve that great. But that’s how it is sometimes. I’m not a robot, so I don’t have to play every day amazing. …

“I think there are just some girls which are playing good tennis. I think Garcia is one of them.”

For once, Garcia’s mental strength coupled with her physical abilities rewarded her. By the time of the second-set tie-break, with Pliskova needing to win it to prolong the match into a third set that never happened, Garcia dominated it 7-2 – and lives to see another round.

“I stayed focused, I knew that she was not going to give me the match,” said Garcia, who will now face 28th-seeded American Jennifer Brady in the third round. Brady, who won the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky. last month, easily beat American wild card CiCi Bellis 6-1, 6-2. “I stayed calm and that was the most important thing.”

Djokovic drops a tie-break, then wins 25th straight

There was never any question that British No. 2 Kyle Edmund had the physical tools to put top seed Novak Djokovic in danger – after all he became the first to take a tie-break off of the World No. 1 this year. However, it’s the mental battle that was a deal breaker – and it’s what Djokovic took advantage of en route to beating Edmund, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, for his 25th straight victory of 2020.

Djokovic closed out the three-hour second-round match at love on his serve. Earlier, he wasn’t always perfect – as his 34 unforced errors will attest. But the top seed rebounded nicely, mixed things up and kept Edmund guessing on a day in which the heat and humidity took its toll on both players.

“Kyle played a fantastic first set. He didn’t do much wrong,” said Djokovic. “It was anybody’s game, really, for a set-and-a-half.”

Next, Djokovic will face 28th seed Jan-Lennard Struff, who defeated No. 186 Michael Mmoh of the United States, 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.

Osaka cops the right attitude

Fourth seed Naomi Osaka, in search of her second US Open title and third major overall, looked focused in her second-round match against Italy’s Camila Giorgi and dropped just three games in moving into Friday’s their round. Despite playing with a heavily taped left hamstring, Osaka won 6-1, 6-2.

“I think my serve was pretty good,” said Osaka during her post-match on-court interview. Indeed, she won 79 percent of her first-serve points, including four aces, and hit 14 winners. “I’m really happy with my attitude. I thought I was really positive throughout.”

At the end of her on-court interview, Osaka was surprised with a Zoom call from her mother, who held up a poster filled with emoji that a somewhat embarrassed Osaka later deciphered in an interview with presenter Chris McKendry on ESPN.

“She’s saying, the first one is, ‘Good job,’ and then the second one is, ‘Don’t do Instagram and Twitter and instead go to sleep. And then the third one is, ‘Drink green juice and get some rest,’ and then the fourth one is, ‘I love you,’” said Osaka, who took it all in good stride.

Next, Osaka will face No. 137 Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, who upset 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova from Latvia, 6-3, 7-6 (5). It was Sevastova who two days earlier beat American teen sensation Coco Gauff.

On Wednesday, Osaka walked out on Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing a black mask with the name of Elijah McClain emblazoned on it, a callout to the 23-year-old from Colorado, who died last summer after being placed in a choke hold by police.

“I think the platform I have now was something I used to take for granted,” Osaka said. “I feel I should be using it for something.”

Zverev finds his way …

World No. 7 and fifth seed Alexander Zverev landed a respectable 75 percent of his first serves, including 24 aces, and held off 19-year-old American wild card Brandon Nakashima, ranked 216 spots below Zverev, who was making his Grand Slam debut this week. Zverev’s 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-1 victory in Louis Armstrong Stadium advanced the German against Adrian Mannarino of France with a place in the round of 16 at stake. Mannarino, always cool and efficient, was able to neutralize the always powerful Jack Sock of the United States, 7-6 (5), 7-5, 6-2.

“In Grand Slams, nothing is stable, so you gotta find a way through,” said Zverev.

“All you have is tennis and the bubble, so you can’t really get away from it, you can’t really have a fresh mind like you do at other tournaments.

“But it’s different, and I think players are just enjoying playing. So I’m happy to just be competing.”

… Rybakina loses hers

After easily advancing into the second round, No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan crashed in her second-round match against American Shelby Rogers, losing 7-5, 6-1. In the past, Rogers has always run up against big names in the third round like Simona Halep in 2015 and Elina Svitolina in 2017. This time, Rogers’ next match will be against unseeded American Madison Brengle, who took out No. 19 Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, 6-2, 6-3.

Goffin reaches third round for fourth straight year

No. 7 David Goffin of Belgium has advanced to the round of 16 in each of the past three years at the US Open and Wednesday he gave himself another chance to succeed with his 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over South Africa’s Lloyd Harris in two hours and 53 minutes.

“I had never played him before and didn’t know what to expect with his serve,” said Goffin, who advanced after beating American Reilly Opelka on Monday. “The balls were coming off the court pretty fast and I just wasn’t able to get a good look at his serve.”

Next, Goffin plays No. 26 seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, who was sharp against American Marcos Giron, losing just eight games, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.

Kvitova wins before audience of bold-faced names

With Victoria Azarenka, Karolina Pliskova and Garbiñe Muguruza all looking on with interest from their player suites inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova gave everyone something to cheer about during her 7-6 (3), 6-2 win over No. 99 Kateryna Kozlova from Ukraine.

The two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova said afterward “I’m really happy I found the way.”

Next, Kvitova will take on 63rd-ranked American Jessica Pegula, a winner over No. 72 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (3), 6-3.

Around the US Open

• In an all-German battle to start the day on Louis Armstrong Stadium, No. 17 seed Angelique Kerber fought off Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-3, 7-6 (6), to move into Friday’s third round. Friedsam was appearing in the second round of a major for the first time.

“It was really a tricky match, especially when I play another German,” said Kerber, the 2016 US Open champion. “She’s so good and she was going for the ball. So, I was trying to take my chances and be aggressive. I was fighting until the end.”

The US Open represents Kerber’s 50th Grand Slam appearance. Since winning it all in 2016 at Flushing Meadows, she’s not made it past the third round. Next, she will face 20-year-old Ann Li of the United States, ranked 128th, who upset No. 13 seed Alison Riske, also from the U.S., 6-0, 6-3.

• Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, seeded fourth, eliminated 168th-ranked wild card Maxime Cressy of the United States, 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-4, on Arthur Ashe Stadium to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the fifth time. Next, he will face No. 27 seed Borna Coric of Croatia, who came back to defeat Juan Ignacio Londero from Argentina, 7-5, 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3, in four hours and 19 minutes.

• Other men’s seeds advancing: No. 12 Denis Shapovalov, No. 19 Taylor Fritz, No. 20 Pablo Carreño Busta.

• Other women’s seeds advancing: No. 8 Petra Martic, No. 14 Anett Kontaveit, No. 23 Yulia Putintseva, No. 24 Magna Linette.

• The upsets: No. 12 Marketa Vondrousova, No. 13 Cristian Garin, No. 19 Dayana Yastremska, No. 24 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 30 Kristina Mladenovic.

• One of the most anticipated second-round matches on Thursday pairs 17-year-old Canadian upstart Leylah Fernandez against No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin, the reigning Australian Open champion.

• On their day off, Victoria Azarenka and Sofia Kenin, a couple of past Grand Slam champions, played some doubles – and won.

Wednesday’s results

Thursday’s order of play