WHAT HAPPENED: The last opening day match on Grandstand ended in a different fashion than most players would want.
Caroline Wozniacki, the tournament’s No. 10 seed, advanced to the second round of the US Open on Monday after her opponent had to stop play due to injury. The Dane was winning 6-1, 3-6, 2-0 when last week’s Connecticut Open finalist Magdalena Rybarikova approached the net and explained to her opponent that she needed to stop playing. Although injury time-outs were taken throughout the match, this still came as a surprise given the scoreline.
“It’s unfortunate that she had to retire,” Wozniacki said. “It would’ve been a good finish, especially for the crowd.”
Kicking off the set with a 3-0 lead, it looked like Wozniacki, 24, would be in for a short evening. Yet the powerful baseliner lost her groove at the start of the second set. Rybarikova, ranked No. 43, found her rhythm and stopped making unforced errors, especially off of her forehand wing.
Citing a right thigh injury coming into this tournament, Rybarikova, 25, looked somewhat stoic from the first point. She double-faulted a handful of times to give Wozniacki the early break. At 0-3, Rybarikova called the trainer. Rather than rest in her chair like most players would, Wozniacki stretched and took serves while her opponent received medical treatment. Up until when the first set ended on Wozniacki’s first net approach, Rybarikova had made 17 unforced errors versus Wozniacki’s four.
“In the beginning I took advantage of [her feeling injured],” said Wozniacki, who made 13 unforced errors and 70 percent of her first serves. “I didn’t let her come in.”
The Slovakian showed mettle and clawed back into the match by approaching the net. Three of four points won on-serve from potent volleys, and before long Rybarikova had a 4-1 lead in the second set. Serving for the set at 5-3, Rybarikova stuck to her game plan of charging the net, but Wozniacki came up with a beautiful passing shot which drew the applause of the Grandstand crowd. The point delayed what was inevitable, and the match would (seemingly) be decided in a third set.
Before the last stanza began, Rybarikova opted into taking an off-court medical time-out. Typically, players take medical treatments on-court or when they’re down in a match, not when they’re winning. That break did not disrupt Wozniacki’s play. She served two consecutive aces, her only ones of the match, before Rybarikova called it quits.
“I love being back. I love playing out here,” an elated-looking Wozniacki said. “Thank you for all the love you’re giving me.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Wozniacki advanced to the Open’s second round for the seventh time in her eight appearances. The 2009 Open singles finalist squared off with tonight’s opponent on three other occasions, most recently in Cincinnati, where she won in straight sets. Up next is qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, who's competing in her first US Open and beat Anna Schmiedlova, 6-4, 6-3, earlier in the day.
THE QUESTION: After having an already successful summer and winning her lone 2014 WTA title in Istanbul, can Wozniacki claim her first-ever Grand Slam singles title? How much has her New York City Marathon preparation helped her tennis play?