NEW YORK, NY, USA -- CoCo Vandeweghe has put the 2017 US Open one step away from all-American semifinals.
The No.20 seed upset World No.1 Karolina Pliskova in straight sets, 7-6(4), 6-3, under the closed roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Pliskova, last year's US Open runner-up, will lose her World No.1 ranking, which will be claimed by Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza on Monday.
The players had split their previous four meetings, with Pliskova winning their last encounter earlier this year, on clay, at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. But, after a competitive first set, Vandeweghe eased to the straight-set win in one hour and 34 minutes.
"I think it's a lot of validated work," said Vandeweghe about the win, in her post-match press conference. "Really happy with how I was able to close out the match in the fashion that I did and in front of the crowd today."
It is Vandeweghe's second win over a World No.1 in her career. Both instances came in Grand Slams this year, as she knocked defending champion Angelique Kerber out of the 2017 Australian Open in the fourth round.
"I think there were moments where I was really tough in the big points, and I think my best asset today was making her continually play on her service games," Vandeweghe deduced. "Whether it was not a great return that just got over the net, I know as a big server it's really annoying when your serve keeps coming back."
Vandeweghe was the sturdier player at the start of the match, serving well and keeping her unforced errors non-existent. The American broke for a 2-1 lead when she hit a service return square on the baseline, and held her lead to 4-3 as Pliskova was misfiring on her returns.
Slowly, Pliskova started to turn things around in the set. Vandeweghe had a poor service game with two double faults to be broken for 4-4. More unforced errors in the American’s next service game gave Pliskova a set point at 5-4, but Vandeweghe forced a backhand error to save it, and held.
They progressed to a first-set tiebreak, and Vandeweghe took the initiative immediately. An incredible service return by Vandeweghe on the first point set the tone, and she raced to a 3-0 lead. A strong forehand by the American which forced a Pliskova error gave her a 4-2 lead as they changed ends.
Good serving by the top seed shrunk the deficit to 5-4, but two unforgivable forehand errors by Pliskova gave Vandeweghe the first set, and the normally unflappable Czech chucked her racquet in utter dismay while the fiery American celebrated.
Afterwards, the momentum was squarely with Vandeweghe. She leapt up a break to 3-1 with solid returning, and while strong hitting by Pliskova got the break right back, the American broke for a second consecutive time for 4-2, as a solid backhand forced an error on break point.
At 5-3, forehand winners by Vandeweghe set up both of her match points, and although she lost the first one with an unforced error, Pliskova hit a forehand service return into the net on the second, giving Vandeweghe a famous victory.
Vandeweghe won an astounding 81 percent of points when she got her first serve in, and since she put 64 percent of her first balls in, at an average speed of 105 MPH, she was extremely effective on serve.
Nevertheless, Pliskova did break Vandeweghe twice. But she left five more break points on the table, and for a player with highly praised strokes, she only hit 13 winners off the ground.
Vandeweghe moves on to play the winner of Wednesday night’s semifinal between Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi and No.15 seed Madison Keys of the United States.
"Madison is a player that can take control of the points and of the rallies -- I think if I allow her to do that, then she's going to be on the winning side of the coin," said Vandeweghe. "So I think it's definitely going to depend on me and making sure she's not capable of doing that."
"But I think the same goes for Kanepi, as well," Vandeweghe continued. "I think Kanepi is also a big player. She's former top 20. I have played her a couple of times and been blown off the court when I was younger, because, you know, she plays that big."
If Keys wins, there will be a wholly American semifinal line-up at the US Open for the first time since 1981. "For myself, I mean, it's really nice to have an all-American semi on one side, because for sure there is going to be an American in the final," said Vandeweghe. "But I think it would be even more exciting for you guys to write about if there are two all-American semis."