Pliskova, seeds shrug off 'weird' atmosphere at US Open

New York (AFP) –


Top seed Karolina Pliskova shrugged off the eerily quiet atmosphere to reach the second round of the US Open as the women's draw followed the form book on Monday.

World number three Pliskova, elevated to top seed in the absence of world number one Ashleigh Barty and second-ranked Simona Halep, needed just over an hour to dispose of Ukraine's Anghelina Kalinina.

The Czech ace overcame an early wobble, when Kalinina fought back from 1-4 down to level at 4-4 in the first set, to clinch a 6-4, 6-0 victory in 1hr 3min.

The 28-year-old, a finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2016, will now face France's Caroline Garcia in the second round.

Pliskova, who made a disappointing early exit at last week's ATP/WTA Western & Southern Open tune-up event in New York, said she was adjusting to playing before empty stands at the Open, where spectators are barred because of Covid-19 protocols.

"I felt better than in my previous match, last week," Pliskova said after her tie on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

"I think the center court is better place to play no matter -- I mean, it's still without people, but I just felt somehow a little better.

"And I had a lot of practices on this court, so I felt just quite used to it."

Pliskova's sixth-seeded compatriot Petra Kvitova also advanced safely, downing Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 6-2.

The 30-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, who has never gone beyond the quarter-finals in New York, said she was adjusting to the empty stands, as well as tournament regulations which prevent players from sightseeing in the city.

"It's been different, for sure," Kvitova said. "I'm glad that I had a couple of matches before to kind of get used to these new things.

"I really had to get used to being in the bubble. It's something totally different, which I was normally doing -- going out for a coffee, sitting in Central Park.

"Suddenly this is not the option."

Elsewhere on Monday, Germany's 17th seed Angelique Kerber, the 2016 US Open champion, booked her second-round berth with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic.

The 32-year-old admitted the fan-free atmosphere had required a mental adjustment.

"It's a little bit weird to play without fans and without the support and the atmosphere on the center courts," Kerber said.

"It's a little bit like the feeling when you play practice matches against the players. But of course you know it's like a serious game.

"It is more, for me today, it was more also mentally to prepare for the match that I know we play without fans and all the situation. It was not so easy at the beginning, but then, yeah, you get used to it a little bit."