One of the more intriguing second round clashes at the US Open this year sees Karolina Pliskova, world number three and top seed in New York, take on former world number four Caroline Garcia for a place in the third round.
Garcia is now languishing down at 50th in the rankings after a difficult couple of seasons though picked up a win over Sloane Stephens at the Western & Southern Open, and dropped just five games in an opening round win against Jasmine Paolini here. Pliskova lost in her opening match last week but rebounded on Monday in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, overcoming a tricky first set to eventually ease past Anhelina Kalinina in just over an hour.
A match between the world number three and world number 50 would not generally generate too much interest, but the two have split their previous six meetings equally. Garcia won their last meeting in the 2018 Tianjin Open final also prevailed in another significant clash in the 2016 Fed Cup Final, though it was the Czech who won their only slam meeting in the last eight of the 2017 French Open. Their head-to-head on hard courts is 2-2.
This will be the third match of the day on Court Louis Armstrong, the second largest stadium at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Centre. The winner will face 28th seed Jennifer Brady or CiCi Bellis in the third round.
“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.”
That was the rather frank assessment Pliskova provided when asked about Garcia ahead of this encounter, and the Czech isn’t too far wrong. The Frenchwoman will be tough to break down if she is serving well and certainly has a lot of on court variety, highlighted by her past doubles success. Garcia will likely use her variety to try and make Pliskova uncomfortable across the whole court.
However, Pliskova is arguably also correct when she describes today’s opponent as “nothing unbeatable.” Garcia is clearly not playing at the level she was towards the end of 2017, and is prone to errors in matches in significant matches. The top seed also has the weapons to dictate with her imperious serve, one of the best in women’s tennis history, and easy power off both wings, though herself was error-prone early on against Kalinina; she will be looking to cut these out.
The court speed will likely provide little advantage with both Pliskova and Garcia capable of playing well on fast courts, though Louis Armstrong and Arthur Ashe are apparently playing a little slower than the outside courts. This may play into the advantage of Pliskova who has already played on Ashe.
Garcia is certainly the type of player that can cause problems for Pliksova, which is highlighted by how tight the head-to-head is. However, the Czech has been in much better form over the past couple of seasons and, after progressively improving throughout her first round contest, should be able to progress without too much trouble.
Prediction: Karolina Pliskova in straight sets