WHAT HAPPENED: Another top women’s seed has fallen in straight sets in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
A day after No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska lost to Peng Shuai, former Roland Garros champ Ana Ivanovic lost in two close sets to the Karolina Pliskova, 7-5, 6-4, in an hour and a half. The victory gave the 22-year-old Czech her first berth in the third round of a Grand Slam.
Ivanovic had no trouble in her first-round match, when she defeated American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0. But on Thursday she struggled to hit as many shots with depth or to dictate points easily. And after exchanging many breaks of serve, it was the hard-hitting Pliskova who moved the ball more and kept her errors to a minimum.
The match got off to an odd start, with Pliskova broeaking two sets of strings toward the top of her racquet on two consecutive points. While she may appear unassuming in the way she moves and carries herself, Pliskova caught the former world No. 1 off guard when she hit soft on one shot and extremely hard on the next. In all, the Czech struck 25 winners including nine aces.
“It’s definitely my best match this year,” said Pliskova, who cracked the Top 50 this summer and many forehand winners today. “I didn’t have that much strategy. I just played my game.”
Ivanovic's forehand let her down when she was up in the first set as missed groundies she usually punishes. Yet never short of self-motivation, Ivanovic remained positive after losing that set and throughout the match but could not get under the ball as well as usual and netted many service returns and deep ground strokes into her body. Overall, she committed 29 unforced errors, 10 more than her steadier opponent.
"I really struggled to find my rhythm and made way too many unforced errors," said a disappointed Ivanovic. "My rhythm was really off [and] my forehand wasn't working at all."
The match saw many breaks, nine to be exact. And while there was a glimmer of hope for Ivanovic when she got up to a 3-2 lead in the second set, Pliskova played with resilience and did not let her feisty opponent push to a third set. Serving for the match at 5-4, Pliskova rolled to triple match point. On her second attempt to clinch her biggest victory of the year, she forced an error out of Ivanovic, and for the second time this year, defeated a Top 10 player (having earlier topped Angelique Kerber in Nuremberg).
“I wanted to enjoy myself and I did it,” Pliskova said.
The Czech up-and-comer won her lone WTA title in 2013 at Kuala Lumpur, where she beat American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in three sets.
WHAT IT MEANS: Pliskova, who reached career-high singles and doubles rankings at No. 41 and 45, respectively, has had her best Open appearance yet. In what seems a Czech-resurgence, Pliskova is one of five ladies from the country who won at least one match. The others are 2014 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, quarterfinalist Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova and Petra Cetkovska, all vying for a spot in the third round later on in the day. Wimbledon semifinalist Lucie Safarova already advanced on Wednesday evening. Pliskova will next face Australia’s Casey Dellacqua.
As for Ivanovic, she just recently regained momentum and returned to the Top 10 club, but she will not make it into Week 2 of the Open.
THE QUESTION: Can Pliskova keep it up in the next round?