NEW YORK, NY, USA - Top seed Karolina Pliskova kicked off the action at Arthur Ashe Stadium with a clinical performance over Anhelina Kalinina in straight sets to move into the second round at the US Open.
Competing as the top seed at a Grand Slam for the second time in her career, Pliskova shook off some early rust after a tricky first set before soaring to a confident 6-4, 6-0 victory over the World No.145 in just 62 minutes.
“I think this match, especially the first set was in couple periods,” Pliskova said, speaking to press via video call. “I think I started not really great with the first game, but after, I was able to somehow, like step in the court, was playing quite aggressive, so I was doing a lot of points.”
Before the tour’s five-month break, Pliskova had made a strong start to the season after winning her 16th career title at the Brisbane International, and she followed it up with a run to the quarterfinal at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.
Pliskova had stumbled last week in her first tournament of the season’s resumption at the Western & Southern Open, where she was upset in her opening match to Veronika Kudermetova, 7-5, 6-4. But Pliskova returned to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Monday with renewed confidence, and fired 26 winners and seven aces en route to victory, off-setting her 16 unforced errors.
“I felt better than in my match previous, last week, what I have played on Court 17,” Pliskova reflected. “I think the center court is better place to play no matter [if] it's still without people, but I just felt somehow a little better. I had a lot of practices on this court, so I felt just quite used to it.
“And also, just to play without people, I think that even I just had one match without people [last week], but I thought it quite help me just to know how it feels.”
Pliskova looked much more at home on Arthur Ashe Stadium, even as she went down an early break to Kalinina, who was making her second Grand Slam main draw appearance. The 23-year-old Ukrainian broke the Pliskova serve to start 1-0, but Pliskova broke straight back to level the score and rolled to a 4-1 lead with a run of four games in a row.
Kalinina refused to wilt away in the opening set, and she secured her first hold of serve before taking advantage of the unforced errors coming her way to break the former World No.1 once again and narrow the score to 4-3. She continued to apply the pressure and created two break chances as Pliskova served at 4-4 - but the Czech dodged the danger with some booming serves and closed out the set 6-4 with a strong break to love.
Pliskova continued to roll in the second set, allowing Kalinina to win just seven points in total as she reeled off the next six games in a row to claim the victory, 6-4, 6-0.
“I thought actually I played quite good until 4-1,” Pliskova said. “Even after I think I could still make, there were a couple close calls and balls which I could make, so I think I could still go up to 5-2 at least. But somehow it was a little bit shaky there.
“I had couple opportunities to go up, but I didn't, and then of course, I mean, happened the first match. I was up 4-1, and then it was 4-All, so I start to think a little bit too much.
“I think I just came up with some big serves on 40-15 down. I felt much stronger after this game which I made. I mean, the second set was much, much better.”
Up next, Pliskova will take on No.32 seed Caroline Garcia in the next round, after the French player defeated Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 6-2 to reach the second round.
“We’ve played couple times. I think she's very good player,” Pliskova assessed. “She's not seeded now. I think she should be or maybe in the future she's going to be. But very dangerous player I think. Especially on these fast courts.
“I think she can play good tennis. She can serve quite well. But nothing unbeatable. So I have to play well.”