It was a rough day for Australians in New York as five of them were knocked out of the US Open women’s singles draw on the opening day.
Ajla Tomljanovic, Astra Sharma, Arina Rodionova, Maddison Inglis and Lizette Cabrera all suffered defeats in a dark day for competitors Down Under.
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Germany’s 17th seed Angelique Kerber, the 2016 US Open champion, booked her second-round berth with a 6-4 6-4 win over Tomljanovic, while Dayana Yastremska beat Sharma in three sets.
Rodionova lost to American Madison Brengle in straight sets, Poland’s Magda Linette needed three sets to get past Inglis and Cabrera fell to world No. 92 Danka Kovinic.
OSAKA KEEPS FIGHTING FOR CHANGE
Naomi Osaka keeps fighting for racial equality, turning up to her first-round US Open match against Misaki Doi wearing a mask with “Breonna Taylor” written on it.
Osaka recovered after dropping the second set to advance 6-2 5-7 6-2 but there are more important issues on her mind than wins and losses.
The world No. 9 brought tennis to a standstill last week when she withdrew from her semi-final of the Western & Southern Open to protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
Osaka took a stand after the police shooting in America of Jacob Blake. Breonna Taylor also died when shot by police in her apartment, and incidents like these have sparked an emotional reaction from the sports world.
“Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach,” Osaka said when announcing her decision last week that prompted the tennis tournament to pause all action for an entire day.
“I’m exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again.
“When will it ever be enough?”
Osaka wore a “Black Lives Matter” shirt to her next match when she resumed playing in New York and today showed her support via the “Breonna Taylor” face mask.
GAUFF’S TEENAGE DREAM ENDS ON A SOUR NOTE
Coco Gauff was a high-profile casualty early on day one of the US Open, going down in three sets to Anastasija Sevastova.
The 16-year-old sensation, who announced herself with a stunning, giant-killing run at Wimbledon last year, dropped the first set before claiming the second to send the match to a decider.
But Gauff’s forehand started to waiver as the match dragged on and No. 31 seed Sevastova took full advantage to secure a 6-3 5-7 6-4 win.
Although ranked six places lower than Sevastova, Gauff will be disappointed to lose as her impressive run at grand slams came to an end. After beating the likes of Venus Williams and Polona Hercog to progress to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019, she excelled on the big stage, qualifying for the third round of last year’s US Open and the fourth round of this summer’s Australian Open.
That makes it the first time in her young career Gauff has lost in the first round of a major.
A crowd favourite in her home country in 2019, the American had to try and pump herself up in front of empty stands this time around but couldn’t maintain the rage for long enough.
Gauff acknowledged that limited playing opportunities in 2020 due to a tennis calendar up-ended by COVID-19 had impacted her development.
“The main part that hurt was just getting matches under my belt, getting experience,” Gauff said when asked to assess the impact of the coronavirus disruption.
“That’s what I need on tour. I’m playing against people older than me who have been in more situations, difficult situations, than I have. I think the biggest thing is I just need experience.
“Right now my plan is just to play as many tournaments as I can, to get matches under my belt. I’m still in doubles here, so I’ll be here hopefully till the end. That’s the goal.”
World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, elevated to top seed in the absence of world No. 1 Ash Barty and second-ranked Simona Halep, needed just over an hour to dispose of Ukraine’s Anghelina Kalinina.
The Czech ace overcame an early wobble, when Kalinina fought back from 1-4 down to level at 4-4 in the first set, to clinch a 6-4 6-0 victory in just over an hour.
The 28-year-old, a finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2016, will now face France’s Caroline Garcia in the second round.
Pliskova, who made a disappointing early exit at last week’s ATP/WTA Western & Southern Open tune-up event in New York, said she was adjusting to playing before empty stands at the Open, where spectators are barred because of COVID-19 protocols.
“I felt better than in my previous match, last week,” Pliskova said. “I think the centre court is better place to play no matter — I mean, it’s still without people, but I just felt somehow a little better.
“And I had a lot of practices on this court, so I felt just quite used to it.”
Pliskova’s sixth-seeded compatriot Petra Kvitova also advanced safely, downing Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-2.
The 30-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, who has never gone beyond the quarter-finals in New York, said she was adjusting to the empty stands, as well as tournament regulations which prevent players from sightseeing in the city.
“It’s been different, for sure,” Kvitova said. “I’m glad that I had a couple of matches before to kind of get used to these new things.
“I really had to get used to being in the bubble. It’s something totally different, which I was normally doing — going out for a coffee, sitting in Central Park.
“Suddenly this is not the option.”