US.10 - A Shiny New Pliskova for All the World To See
Make no mistake about it, we no longer have Karolina Pliskova to push around anymore. Now it's the Czech who's doing the pushing.
This summer, "New Pliskova" has shed all the former drag that "Old Pliskova" used to have on her career. The small titles (five International level events) were joined by the biggest of her career (Premier 5-level Cincinnati). The habit of playing TOO much before a slam was replaced by a more sensible schedule, as rather than "win" the U.S. Open Series because she played so many tournaments (as she did last summer), the Czech is still in contention for THE U.S. Open title heading into the closing days of the event. The big victories have come along for the ride, as well. In Cincinnati, Pliskova put up victories over the likes of Top 10ers Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber, winners of a combined four slam crowns and, as far as the latter two Top 3-ranked woman, having played in all three major finals of 2016.
With all that under her belt, Pliskova has ridden her big serve and calm on-court disposition to new heights at Flushing Meadows. Two days ago, she saved MP vs. #6 Venus Williams in the Open's women's match of the tournament in the Round of 16. Oh, yeah. And about THAT win, and what it signified. After failing to reach even the 4th Round of a major in her first seventeen appearances, despite ranking high in the semifinals/finals totals on tour and climbing as high as #7 over the last two years, Pliskova finally overcame the Round of 16 obstacle with her win over the all-time great in the tournament where Venus first made her name nineteen years earlier.
With that, for the Czech, things may never be the same.
Against Ana Konjuh today, in a match-up of first time slam quarterfinalits, Pliskova dispensed with any lingering questions about her New York run. While the 18-year old Croat helped things along by showing none of the verve and confidence she did two days ago against Aga Radwanska, the Czech NEVER allowed her opponent to even sniff an opening in this match. While Konjuh was visibly nervous in the biggest moment of her career, Pliskova didn't seem to blink an eye in the face of the pressure (thank you, Fed Cup?). After Konjuh went up 40/15 on serve in the opening game, only to see her serve broken, the Czech put a boot on her neck... and then pushed. Calm, cool and collected throughout, Pliskova won 100% of her first serve points in the 1st set.
While Konjuh began to get a little more comfortable in the 2nd set, it didn't really matter. Pliskova's 6-2/6-2 victory march into her first slam semifinal came with her dropping just five TOTAL points on her first serve on the day. After not even needing to employ her tour-leading ace machine serve, up 30/love, she closed things out by reminding everyone why she's not to be taken lightly, no matter her light grand slam resume, as she hit her second and third aces on the day in the final two points of the match.
Riding high and living up to her potential on the biggest stage, Pliskova has now won ten straight matches. She's 11-1 on summer hard courts, with her only loss coming vs. Simona Halep in Montreal. Already the highest-ranked Czech on tour, she's officially back in the Top 10 with her Open run and is assured of a new career-high ranking of #6 no matter what happens next.
She could face Halep again in the semifinals. Or, you know, it might be Serena Williams. If it's the world #1 rather than #5, well, it'll be easy for her chances to be belittled by the usual suspects. And she very well may HAVE already reached her high water mark for this Open. But, we'll see.
That would surely be case with "Old Pliskova," but then she wouldn't even still be here at this point. "New Pliskova" is, and is looking better and better with each confidence-building win. So, what about her?
But it'll be sure fun to find out.
It's the not being 100% sure that makes breakthrough moments like this so exciting.
=DAY 10 NOTES=
...in the final women's doubles quarterfinal yet to be completed, Martina Hingis & CoCo Vandeweghe advanced to the semfinals over the all-Maiden duo of Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova. They'll next face #1-seeded Garcia/Mladenovic.
Meanwhile, Laura Siegemund's 2016 season got even better today, as she and Mate Pavic advanced into the Mixed Doubles final. The German will play for her first slam career slam crown vs. Vandeweghe & Rajeev Ram, as CoCo remains alive for TWO titles at this Open.
...the march of the junior Bannerettes continued on Day 10.
With four U.S. girls -- #4 Amanda Anisimova, #8 Sonya Kenin, Taylor Johnson and qualfier Ashley Lahey -- alive in the top half of the Round of 16 singles draw, seven more (no against each other) played in the eight 3rd Round matches contested today.
Six more advanced today, including #5 Kayla Day, #9 Usue Arconada, qualifier Kylie McKenzie and, in a huge upset, wild card Carson Branstine. The 15-year old Branstine knocked off #2-seed Olesya Pervushina, 2-6/7-6(7)/6-4, saving two MP in the tie-break.
After a brief rain delay, the final two U.S. girls to survive were lucky loser Vanessa Ong and #16 Alexandra Sanford. Wild Card Hailey Baptiste was the only Bannerette girl to lose, falling to #7-seeded Canadian Bianca Andreescu.
...of course, ESPN likes to do nothing more than show people TALKING during its U.S. Open LIVE tennis coverage. But with both Darren Cahill and Patrick Mouratoglou on set together the other day, talking about Simona Halep and Serena Williams, this was actually one of the few good on-set moments at this slam (even with the presence of LZ Granderson and Hannah Storm).
(Cahill's simple answer to the question of Halep's continued emotional outbursts on court is priceless. "She's Romanian." It DOES explain a great deal, I guess.)
So, will it be Serenativity or Simonativity that prevails tonight on Ashe? As all-in as I am on a certain Swarmette, of course, we know who the favorite here is.
Either way, looks like the second night session post of this U.S. Open awaits.
...meanwhile, we're just about ready to begin to determine who'll be the first Paralympic tennis Gold medalist in the post-Vergeer era. Four years ago, the Dutch legend's career came to a fitting close in London.
Practice has already begun in Rio, as the tennis competition is set to commence in two days. The opening ceremonies are tonight.
Wheelchair tennis centre court at the Paralympic Games in Rio. pic.twitter.com/dOFHcd6AaU— Marjolein Buis (@MarjoleinBuis) September 2, 2016
"WHAT A SURPRISE... NOT" ON DAY 10: Two games into ESPN's coverage of Pliskova/Konjuh, minutes after saying they are two players we'll see in slams over the next ten years, commentators were already diminishing the significance of the Czech leading the tour in aces, noting how she's played fewer tournaments than Serena and how "misleading" the stat is.
Not mentioned: that Pliskova also led the tour in aces last year, and was second behind Serena in '14, so it's not like it's a fluke stat. Also not mentioned: that, hello, it's not a BAD thing to say a player has the SECOND most lethal serve on tour after that of Williams.
Then, when Pliskova ends the match with back-to-back aces, Pam Shriver reacts appropriately and marvels while wondering how many players have ever served themselves into their first slam semifinal like that... then Chris Evert punctures the balloon again by saying that Serena might have done it.
Hmmm, I wonder why it is that so many casual fans don't give the younger players any credit? Oh, yeah, because the outlet that covers the major events bends over backwards to note why accomplishments by the NextGen have asterisks attached or are "not as important" as those by players who will likely no longer be playing a few years from now.
Way to grow the fan base and prepare for the future, people.
Hmmm, maybe if it was called the "ESPN WTA Tour" things would be VERY different. We know they know how to promote THOSE four letters to no end or reason.
LIKE ON DAY 10: A partner who could never disappoint Martina (well, at least I don't think so).
Watch your P's and Q's, Lady Liberty... and keep that torch above your head. Just in case.
"JUST A NOTE..." ON DAY 10: ..from last night. It was a pity that Anastasija Sevastova's U.S. Open ended with a whimper, with her being unable to really compete after rolling her ankle early in the match vs. Caroline Wozniacki in a 6-0/6-2 loss (that was very nearly a double-bagel). But can we dispense with the in-match debate about whether it's "good" or "bad" for a player to retire under such circumstances and the attempt to link it to things like "entertaining the fans" or some such nonsense as that, hmmm... ESPN?
Sevastova: “It was affecting my play, but I'm not a person that likes to retire during a match, so I just tried my best.”— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 7, 2016
If Sevastova had retired, it would have been her choice. She didn't because she just didn't WANT to, not because she was worried about -- nor should she have been -- the fans "getting their money's worth." She said she didn't like, essentially, just walking away from a match. It's not good, nor bad. It's just her. And it was her personal decision alone, once she felt like she wasn't going to hurt herself further. Her playing on, in a match that was over mid-way through the 1st set, didn't really offer any more "entertainment" to the fans (who really WANTS to watch a noncompetitive match where a player can't effectively move around the court?), just as if she'd chosen to retire in the 1st it wouldn't have been some sort of "black mark" on her name because she "quit" or "gave up" or "robbed" her opponent or the fans of anything, either. It didn't really play into things here, since it was obvious she was hurt, but it goes for any player in any match.
Every player is different. Unlike ESPN tennis commentators... pretty much 90% of them are simply atrocious.
LIKE ON DAY 10: SimonaShortz! Still 100% all-in on THAT, at least.
"THIS..." ON DAY 10: So don't wag your finger at the press when your commitment is questioned. I'm just sayin'.
Wozniacki does not confirm or deny reports in Danish press from her father that she is contemplating retirement in next year or so. #usopen— Douglas Robson (@dougrobson) September 7, 2016
LIKE ON DAY 10: After their disaster of a discussion about the best non-slam winner the other day, the ESPN Den hit most of the right names when discussing the "best teenager" on Wednesday, bringing up Bencic, Kasatkina, Osaka and Konjuh. Not everyone (Ostapenko, maybe?), but no outrageously overlooked contender, at this point.
"OKAY, ONE MORE SHOT AT ESPN" ON DAY 10: One thing I don't think was mentioned even ONCE during Pliskova's last two wins, but which has likely played a large part in the semifinalist's confidence-gaining stretch the last two years? Her Fed Cup participation. She's been called upon to play a lead role in recent ties for the dominant Czech team, facing and succeeding with a great deal of pressure on her shoulders in front of partisan crowds.
It shouldn't be a shock that her own tour success has increased in the process (it's been the same with Garcia and Mladenovic, too).
The worst part about the oversight? Well, that Mary Joe Fernandez is the U.S. FED CUP CAPTAIN... so it should be something that immediately comes to mind. You'd think.
"LIKE" ON DAY 10: Okay, just to show it's not ALL bad. So far, I've got nothing bad to say about ESPN's most recent addition to the slam commentating crew, Brit Jason Goodall. So there.
Of course, give it time... the groupthink in the Den generally brings everyone down to the same level, eventually.
"HMMM..." ON DAY 10: Does my correct prediction of a Pliskova semifinal result at this Open (after having never reached a 4th Round) rival or surpass last year's on-the-nose AnaIvo pick to do the same in '15 for the first time in seven years?
...and, finally... (if anyone didn't pick up on the theme here so far, all these songs have been about or set in New York). See?
Q-Rounds: "Empire State of Mind" (Alicia Keys)
Preview: "New York Groove" (Ace Frehley)
Day 1: "New York, New York" (from "On the Town")
Day 2: "New York State of Mind" (Billy Joel)
Day 3a: "New York, New York" (Frank Sinatra)
Day 3b: "New York, New York" (Liza Minelli)
Day 4: "Angel of Harlem" (U2)
Day 5: "NY State of Mind" (Nas)
Day 6: "Big Apple Dreamin'" (Alice Cooper)
Day 7: "Living for the City" (Stevie Wonder)
Day 8: "Brooklyn Girls" (Catey Shaw)
Day 9: "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" (Jim Croce)
Day 10a: "I Love NYC" (Andrew WK)
Day 10b: "New York Groove" (Ace Frehley)
Day 10c: "New York Groove" (Hello)
I've been doing this because I always enjoy it when ESPN uses Ace Frehley's "New York Groove" in promos or in and out of commercial breaks during the U.S. Open. It's pretty much what gets me ready for the tournament. Plus, hearing it takes me back to when a Little Backspinner would listen to KISS albums with his cousin during the summer, and Ace was his favorite member of the band, by far (my cousin liked Gene Simmons best, so there was that) -- the only Halloween costume I can ever remember wearing as a little kid was an Ace mask. Frehley's solo album version of the still-great song (originally recorded by the band Hello, a version which is very good in its own right) is even better than the original one, I think. And that it's still being played on a semi-regular basis, I'd say, sort of backs up that assertion.
Anyway, while looking for songs for this spot, I came upon this one, which I actually think could be worked in on occasion by ESPN during its Open broadcasts, too.
And, of course, I'll include "New York Groove" (both versions) again, too, just because I want to hear it. ;)
Hell, while I'm at it, I'll just post that whole Frehley solo album. I just listened to it, and it's still one of my favorites ever. HIS sound really was the sound of the band back when they actually made memorable music (underrated and unappreciated, really, because of the makeup and concert pyrotechnics) before it all became just a marketing machine, and after Frehley left (was thrown out of) the band the first time (before a brief, money-driven reunion) their music was never really the same. And listening to his later solo albums, the old KISS sound is all there, too. Musically, Frehley was the musical heart and soul, while Simmons was about business first and foremost (he's why the band still exists and has made a kazillion dollars, but the shameless selling of the KISS name -- Simmons and lead singer Paul Stanley are part owners of an Arena Football League team named the L.A. KISS, for crap's sake! -- is why it took until 2014 for the the band to be put into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and why some wanted to question whether they should have been there at all).
*WOMEN'S SINGLES QF*
#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #5 Simona Halep/ROU
#10 Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Ana Konjuh/CRO
Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. Anastasija Sevastova/LAT
#2 Angelique Kerber/GER def. #7 Roberta Vinci/ITA
*WOMEN'S DOUBLES SF*
#1 Garcia/Mladenovic (FRA/FRA) vs. #6 Hingis/Vandeweghe (SUI/USA)
#12 Mattek-Sands/Safarova (USA/CZE) vs. #5 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
*MIXED DOUBLES FINAL*
#7 Vandeweghe/Ram (USA/USA) vs. Siegemund/Pavic (GER/CRO)
*GIRLS SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Anastasia Potapova/RUS vs. Katie Swan/GBR
(Q) Ashley Lahey/USA vs. #8 Sonya Kenin/USA
#4 Amanda Anisimova/USA vs. #13 Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK
Tessah Andrianjafitrimo/FRA vs. Taylor Johnson/USA
#7 Bianca Andreescu/CAN vs. #9 Usue Arconada/USA
#16 Alexandra Sanford/USA vs. (LL) Vanessa Ong/USA
#5 Kayla Day/USA vs. (Q) Kylie McKenzie, USA
#15 Yuki Naito/JPN vs. (WC) Carson Branstine/USA
Vesnina said that Sharapova congratulated team Makarena for their Olympic Gold ? pic.twitter.com/lRvpN4Be1Q— Johanna Mason (@FaabiHola) September 7, 2016
**U.S. OPEN "ZOMBIE QUEEN" WINNERS**
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2010 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2011 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
2014 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, CRO
2015 Daria Kasatkina, RUS
2016 Karolina Pliskova, CZE
AO: Monica Puig, PUR
RG: Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
WI: Dominika Cibulkova, SVK & Aga Radwanska, POL
US: Karolina Pliskova, CZE
**U.S. OPEN "Ms. OPPORTUNITY" WINNERS**
2004 Shinobu Asagoe, JPN
2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Tatiana Golovin, FRA
2007 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2010 Kaia Kanepi, EST
2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
2012 Sara Errani, ITA
2013 Li Na, CHN
2014 Peng Shuai, CHN
2015 Roberta Vinci, ITA
2016 Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
AO: Johanna Konta, GBR
RG: Kiki Bertens, NED & Shelby Rogers, USA
WI: Elena Vesnina, RUS
US: Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
*LOWEST-SEEDED WOMEN IN US OPEN SF, since 2000*
Unseeded - 2000 Elena Dementieva, RUS
Unseeded - 2009 Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
Unseeded - 2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
Unseeded - 2013 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
Unseeded - 2014 Peng Shuai, CHN
Unseeded - 2015 Roberta Vinci, ITA (RU)
Unseeded - 2016 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
Wild Card - 2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
#28 - 2011 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#26 - 2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA (W)
#19 - 2006 Jelena Jankovic,SRB
#17 - 2014 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
#12 - 2005 Mary Pierce, FRA (RU)
#12 - 2007 Venus Williams, USA
#10 - 2001 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#10 - 2002 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
#10 - 2012 Sara Errani, ITA
#10 - 2014 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (RU)
*BACKSPIN 2016 "ITF PLAYER" WINNERS*
JAN: Chantal Skamlova, SVK
FEB: Naomi Broady, GBR
MAR: Isabella Shinikova, BUL
1Q: ISABELLA SHINIKOVA, BUL
APR: Paula Ormaechea, ARG
MAY: Katerina Siniakova, CZE
JUN: Danka Kovinic, MNE
2Q Clay Court: ASIA MUHAMMAD/TAYLOR TOWNSEND, USA/USA
JUN: Alison Riske, USA
JUL: Pauline Parmentier, FRA (clay)
2Q Grass Court: ALISON RISKE, USA
JUL: Tamara Korpatsch, GER
AUG: Richel Hogenkamp, NED
[2016 Weekly ITF PLAYER Award Wins]
2...Isabella Shinikova, BUL
2...Katerina Stewart, USA
2...Viktoriya Tomova, BUL
2...Wang Qiang, CHN
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: Eri Hozumi/JPN d. (WC) Amanda Anisimova/USA 6-1/2-6/7-6(1) [Hozumi trails 4-0 in the 3rd, saves a MP vs. the 14-year old]
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR d. Zheng Saisai/CHN (5-7/7-6(5)/7-5; Zheng served up 5-4 2nd and 5-3 in TB; 3:01)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): Nominee: 4th Rd. #10 Ka.Pliskova d. #6 V.Williams 4-6/6-4/7-6(3) [saved MP, on 5th MP]
TOP LATE-RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): xx
TOP ASHE NIGHT SESSION MATCH: xx
FIRST VICTORY: Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR (def. Falconi/USA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #30 Misaki Doi/JPN (lost 1st Rd. to Witthoeft/GER)
UPSET QUEENS: China
REVELATION LADIES: Ukraine
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Belgium (0-4 in 1st Rd.)
CRASH & BURN: #32 Monica Puig/PUR (Olympic Gold medalist; lost 1st rd. to Sai.Zheng/CHN)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #10 Karolina Pliskova/CZE (4th Rd. - down set and 3-1 vs. V.Williams, saved MP in 3rd set, wins on 5th MP; in first career slam SF)
IT ("Teen"): Ana Konjuh/CRO
Ms.OPPORTUNITY: Anastasija Sevastova/LAT
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: CiCi Bellis/USA (3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Lauren Davis/USA, Kayla Day/USA, Vania King/USA (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: Serena Williams/USA
COMEBACK PLAYER: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM VETERAN CUP (KDK CUP): Nominees: R.Vinci/ITA, S.Williams/USA
DOUBLES STAR: Nominee: Vandeweghe/USA
BROADWAY-BOUND: Nominee: M.Keys/USA, S.Williams/USA, Halep/ROU
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: M.Keys/USA (won latest-ending women's match - 1:48 a.m.), S.Williams/USA (2-0 under the lights in "superhero" garb), Halep?
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx
All for Day 10. More tonight.