NEW YORK, NY, USA - WTA World No.1 Karolina Pliskova found her form just in time to get past an inspired Nicole Gibbs, while No.8 Svetlana Kuznetsova became the fifth Top 8 seed to bow out, losing in three sets to Japan's Kurumi Nara on Day 4 of the US Open.
Kuznetsova's loss eliminates her from the battle for No.1, meaning there are now five women who can leave New York with the No.1 ranking: Simona Halep, Garbiñe Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Venus Williams. If Muguruza wins her third round match on Friday against Magdalena Rybarikova, she will eliminate both Halep and Venus from the chase and move into pole position for the No.1 ranking.
The Insider Team breaks down the action from Day 4 on the newest installment of the US Open Daily Dispatch.
Free Daria Kasatkina
The 20-year-old is into the third round of the US Open after a straight-set win over Sorana Cirstea, and she's set for a rematch of the Volvo Car Open final against fellow 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko. Kasatkina won that battle on clay to capture her first WTA title, and she's hoping her growing maturity will help replicate the result on Saturday.
"There [have not been] lot of discussions," Kasatkina said, when asked what her coach Vladamir Platenik has told her during the first week. "Little by little he was less and less involved [in order] for me to get more mature."
"He's giving me more freedom in the practices and the matches. I'm trying to make the decisions on my own, playing the way that I want, because I have to get more mature and make my decisions. That's why he's giving me more freedom to play the way that I feel."
"I feel good because I know mostly my wins are because I'm playing this way and I'm making these decisions. Nobody is directing me, so I'm directing myself. It's feeling better."
Daria Gavrilova has her eyes set on Zhuhai
You have to feel for Gavrilova, who along with Shelby Rogers played the longest women's singles match recorded in US Open history. The two were locked up at 6-all in the final set tiebreak and being two points away from the win and falling short definitely left it's mark on the somber Aussie.
"It feels like I played 3.5 hours for nothing," Gavrilova said. "It was always going to me. I was always going to be in the records for the longest match somewhere."
But after a hard court summer that saw her notch her first WTA title at the Connecticut Open last week, Gavrilova is back inside the Top 20 and says her goal is to qualify for the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.
"Usually after tough losses I would be like I'm not going to do any recovery stuff now. I'm just going to go to the hotel and relax," Gavrilova said. "But I actually went and did a good recovery, did an ice bath. I was pretty motivated. I want to get better."
Focus, Naomi. Focus.
Naomi Osaka admitted she was playing with nerves and pressure in her three-set win over Denisa Allertova, knowing that people would judge her harshly if she failed to follow up her big win over defending champion Angelique Kerber. In order to keep herself locked into the match, Osaka was far more vocal and demonstrative than she has been in previous matches. The 19-year-old said she was trying to do everything she could to keep her mind from wandering during the match.
Wait...so where exactly does Osaka's mind go during matches?
"Once I was practicing and my whole practice - you know, there is that commercial that says, 'If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma,' that's all I could think about for the whole practice. I was, like, why do I keep thinking this?
"Then during the breaks, all I could see was that commercial where this woman was running in a field. I mean, it was a good practice. It's just my mind wasn't there. I think it was just muscle memory and stuff. That was a weird day."
Long story short: Osaka's press conferences are mandatory viewing.
Pliskova feeling the pressure.
Pliskova has made a name for herself as being one of the tour's most nerveless competitors, but the Czech admits she's feeling the pressure of not only being No.1 but defending her final from last year. Especially in light of a draw that she acknowledges is very manageable.
"I'm feeling well in the practice," Pliskova said after her come from behind win over Nicole Gibbs. "It's more about the mental side. So just [I have] to keep my nerves a little bit down. Obviously, I think the pressure, maybe I put it even more on myself than the others do. But I still want to play well and keep winning. So hopefully I can do that.
"I think maybe this match can help me in the next matches just to play better, feel better. Maybe this is the match what I needed in this tournament."
"Every match when I go, I have to win. There is enough pressure on me. They're outsiders, so they're always going to play well against me, so that's also the thing. But I don't feel like I'm shaky. I'm just kind of slow in the beginning, so I just need some time to get the rhythm and get in the game."
Quote of the Day:
Q. Have you ever used a salon in the players lounge at a slam?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't think they can deal with my hair.