Pliskova Wins San Diego Open Debut Match

Karolina Pliskova (photo: San Diego Open WTA 500)

SAN DIEGO, October 12, 2022 (by Richard Osborne)

A trio of US Open finalists, including 2017 champion Sloane Stephens, 2016 runner-up Karolina Pliskova, and 2021 runner-up Leylah Fernandez, kicked off their San Diego Open WTA 500 campaigns on Tuesday at Barnes Tennis Center.

The former No. 1 Pliskova of the Czech Republic advanced to the Round of 16 with a 6-3, 6-4 win over American Caroline Dolehide, while the wildcard entrant Stephens of the United States notched her second win over lucky loser Jil Teichmann in 2022, downing the Swiss lefthander, 6-1, 7-6 (2).

“It’s always a tough match with her. She’s a great player,” said Stephens, who saved a set point in the second set. “I knew she was going to come out and give me a good fight. I just tried to stay calm and play my game. In the end, it went my way.”

Fernandez was not as fortunate. The 20-year-old Canadian would suffer her second loss to No. 8 seed Daria Kasatkina this year, falling, 6-2, 6-2, in just 59 minutes.

“Dasha is an amazing player. She’s improved so much over the years,” Fernandez observed. “I watched her play on TV when I was still a junior. Seeing her now in the Top 10 and doing so well this year is truly inspiring. I think today she showed how well she plays. She didn’t make too many mistakes. I, unfortunately, did.”

Croatia’s Donna Vekic continues to have Maria Sakkari’s number. Tuesday’s 7-6 (3), 6-1 decision was her fifth win in seven encounters with the Greek star, who was seeded fifth this week.

“Maria is a really good friend of mine. I wasn’t happy to play her. I think we were both pretty nervous at the beginning, but I managed to calm down a little bit and I think I found my zone in the second set,” said the 77th-ranked Vekic, who now owns nine career wins over Top-10 opponents, including an upset of No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka last summer at the Tokyo Games.

I was really happy when I found out that she took a wildcard at the last second and was coming here,” added Vekic. “I texted her straight away. When the draw came out, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re playing each other!’ It’s not easy. We fight on the court, but we’re still close off the court.”

Vekic, 26, finished with seven aces and converted five of six break-point opportunities in the one-hour and 36-minute contest.

Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza and China’s Qinwen Zheng each celebrated their birthday three days ago, though there’s a wide chasm of experience between the 29-year-old Muguruza, a two-time major titlist, and the 20-year-old Zheng, who only last month reached her first WTA final in Tokyo.

However, the 28th-ranked Zheng, who moved into the main draw as a lucky loser when reigning Wimbledon champ Elena Rybakina withdrew due to a right shoulder injury, looked the more seasoned of the two on Tuesday night, ahead 5-0 after 24 minutes when her opponent retired due to illness. She will next face world No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland.

Wednesday Preview

World No. 19 Danielle Collins is among a group of American hopefuls who will take the Barnes Stadium court for the Round of 16 on Wednesday. The 28-year-old, who earlier this year reached her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, will face 2022 Roland Garros semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy.

“I have really loved watching her play,” said Collins of her 31st-ranked opponent. “I love her competitiveness, and love the ‘C’mon!’s. I do a lot of that myself. I think it’s going to be a really competitive match.”

The matchup between 18-year-old Americans Coco Gauff and Robin Montgomery, which was suspended due to rain on Tuesday night with the No. 8-ranked Gauff leading 6-3, 3-2, will be second up in the day session.

In the nightcap, the top-ranked American woman, No. 6 Jessica Pegula, will do battle with countrywoman CoCo Vandeweghe, who at 30 is again resembling the player who reached semifinals at both the Australian Open and US Open in 2017. Vandeweghe made her WTA debut in San Diego in 2006, and has been ranked as high as No. 9.

Tuesday Results

R32 – [LL] Q. Zheng (CHN) d. G. Muguruza (ESP) 50 RET
R32 – [8] D. Kasatkina d. [WC] L. Fernandez (CAN) 62 62
R32 – [Q] D. Vekic (CRO) d. [WC] [5] M. Sakkari (GRE) 76(3) 61
R32 – Ka. Pliskova (CZE) d. [Q] C. Dolehide (USA) 63 64
R32 – [WC] S. Stephens (USA) d. [LL] J. Teichmann (SUI) 61 76(2)
R16 – S. Kenin (USA) / L. Samsonova d. R. Marino (CAN) / C. Zhao (CAN) 62 64
R16 – [SR] S. Sanders (AUS) / L. Stefani (BRA) d. [WC] A. Ahn (USA) / K. Hui (USA) 60 64
R16 – [2] G. Dabrowski (CAN) / G. Olmos (MEX) d. K. Christian (USA) / S. Santamaria (USA) 75 61