NEW YORK, NY, USA - Day 1 at the US Open saw five seeds bow out, including No.2 Simona Halep, who lost an incredibly high-quality match to Maria Sharapova, and No.7 Johanna Konta, who bowed out to Aleksandra Krunic. Those results may have grabbed the headlines, but WTA Insider caught up with three very happy winners in No.19 Caroline Garcia, No.41 Kristyna Pliskova, and No.98 Maria Sakkari.
For a full breakdown of the action, listen to the WTA Insider Podcast's Daily Dispatch from Day 1:
Kristyna Pliskova and Misa Eguchi heal old wounds.
The last time Kristyna Pliskova and Misa Eguchi faced off was nearly 12 months ago in the final of the WTA 125K in Dalian, China. Eguchi found herself two points from the title, leading 5-2 in the decisive set, when she took a terrible fall on court and blew out the ACL in her knee. Pliskova would win the title by retirement and thus would begin her steady ascent into the Top 100 up to her current ranking at No.41. Eguchi would not play again until the French Open. When Pliskova saw her draw, the flashbacks came quickly.
"Obviously the first game I was a bit tight," Pliskova said after her 6-2, 6-2 win. "Especially because I have some bad memories with Misa from last year. It wasn't easy. I was thinking about it a bit before the match. I think it was worse for her, of course. She was a long time without matches. I was also in touch with her with messages."
"We both had bad memories from that match. I told her after the match that I'm very happy she's back. I think everyone is happy that she's back and I hope she'll be fine in the future."
Pliskova is coming off her own bout of bad luck in China. Last month she was playing in the semifinal in Nanchang when she cut herself on an electric fan that was sitting courtside behind the player's benches.
"It was a bit unlucky. I touched the fan and I thought it was going to be off but it turned on suddenly. I don't even know how this happened, it was that quick. I touched it for two seconds and it cut my thumb. I was bleeding quite a lot. I had six stitches, which is a quite a lot especially because it was my left hand. I couldn't play anymore."
The injury forced her to withdraw from the Bank of the West Classic and Rogers Cup, so she was relieved to get through her first round in less than hour. She'll next face Magdalena Rybarikova with a chance to avenge her sister Karolina's loss at Wimbledon.
Caroline Garcia is living the real New Yorker life.
The Frenchwoman has enjoyed a steady and consistent four-month stretch of play that has boosted her to a career-high ranking at No.19, thanks to an inspired run to the French Open quarterfinals, Wimbledon round of 16, and Rogers Cup quarterfinals. On Monday she dropped just one game against Tereza Martincova to move into the second round, where she saw immediate returns on the hard work she put in before the tournament.
"[I've been] trying to organize myself earlier than I can when the ball comes, to be able to put more pressure on my opponent," Garcia told WTA Insider. "To be less late when I hit the ball. We really tried to focus on this before the US Open. Today in the match I actually did it pretty well. I felt the difference, so I'm happy with the change. My dad always insists on it but sometimes I'm a little bit lazy," she said with a laugh.
Garcia opted to change things up this year in New York, bypassing the cluster of player hotels in Midtown in search of the more tranquil East Village. As an added bonus, her mother surprised her last week by bringing her dog Endy along to enjoy the Big Apple.
"It's very different, it's very residential, it's not too many tourists," Garcia said of her new neighborhood. "It's more quiet. I really appreciate this part of town because sometimes when you're staying in Midtown there are so many tourists and it's really noisy. We have an apartment, we cook, we like it.
"I like New York this way. I feel like a real New Yorker!"
Maria Sakkari hires former ATP pro Thomas Johansson as her coach.
Slams and Sakkari go together like ham and cheese. Greece's No.1 scored another strong win at a Slam, this time ousting No.24 seed Kiki Bertens 6-3, 6-4 in the first round. She'll play Arina Rodionova next.
Sakkari split with her former coach German Puentes after the French Open and connected with Johansson, who reached a career-high of No.7, over the summer.
"Of course I knew him as a player and as a coach," Sakkari told WTA Insider. "When I got the idea from my agent I said, of course, it would be great if he wants to. We started practicing and it was really good from the first day. We have a great connection. He's a great person and he was a great player, even now. He hits unbelievably even now!"
"I feel like we have been working almost three weeks now and I my game changed completely. It worked out really well and that's why I'm happy and why he's happy as well. We worked hard, we spent a lot of hours in New Haven. I'm looking forward to more changes when we get the time. Let's see how it goes."
Garbiñe Muguruza downplays her "favorite" tag.
With Simona Halep's loss to Maria Sharapova, Muguruza is now the top seed in the bottom half of the draw. Given her win at Wimbledon and 9-2 record over the summer, including the title at the Western & Southern Open, many are tipping the Spaniard as the favorite in New York.
That comes as a slight surprise to Muguruza, who has never made it past the second round.
"I don't feel I'm a favorite here because I never really played very good," Muguruza said after her first round win over Varvara Lepchenko. "I did play good but just didn't go my way. I guess it's just based on the results.
"On the paper, people might think that. But you come here and with the conditions and the past, there are certain players that play better and certain players that don't. So far I'm just thinking that I'm happy that I'm in the second round, and that's what I'm going to take."
Quote of the Day: Take it away, Maria...
Q. Is there anything about Halep and the way that she plays that feeds into your game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I wouldn't say it feeds. We've had really tough matches. They haven't necessarily been blowouts. But I do think that she is the type of opponent that would have beaten me many times when I was younger. This was the type of player that I had a lot of trouble with, someone that could be out there for three hours at a time and just grind, come up with the great shots.
You saw the level she was able to produce in the end with the down-the-line running winners. I mean, she's No.2 in the world, close to No.1. That speaks for itself.
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