Coco Vandweghe powered into the U.S. Open semifinals on Wednesday, downing current world number one and last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova 7-6(4), 6-3 to become the third American in the final four in Flushing Meadows.
“Let’s make it four for four,” she said to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after her win, referencing Wednesday night’s quarterfinal to be played between her compatriot Madison Keys and Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, as Keys tries to join fellow Americans Vandeweghe, Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens in the final four.
The 20th seeded Vandeweghe broke the big-serving Pliskova early on for a 2-1 lead in the first set, but Pliskova did well to get the set back on serve at 4-4 and the opener headed for a tiebreaker.
Vandeweghe jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the breaker to take control and despite Pliskova trimming the deficit to 4-5 at one point, the New York City-born Vandeweghe captured the first set.
With the first set in hand, Vandeweghe seemed to be in control the whole time throughout the second set. Three straight service breaks in the middle of the set put Vandeweghe up the crucial break, and at 5-3 she had an opportunity to serve for the match.
Pliskova brought the game to deuce, but Vandeweghe would not be denied, and wrapped up the victory after a Pliskova forehand crashed into the net.
“I’m really happy with how I was able to close out the match in the fashion that I did,” she said. “And in front of the crowd today.”
In the semifinals, Vandeweghe will take on the winner of that Keys-Kanepi match, which opens up the night session inside Arthue Ashe Stadium on Wednesday night.
A player who has always been emotional and fiery on the court, Vandeweghe credits a lot of her success to her coach Pat Cash, who has been able to harness that passion into productivity.
“I think the biggest thing is channeling my intensity and tenacity out onto the court and putting it into a singular focus,” said Vandeweghe. “I think that’s probably one of the biggest things he’s implemented into my regimen.”
As a result of her loss, Pliskova will drop out of the world number one spot when the new rankings are released on Monday, and Spain’s Garbine Muguruza will move into the world’s top spot.
“I mean, I don't care. I don't think something is going to change if you are No. 2,” Pliskova said afterwards. “Like, I don't see any difference between this. So for me, no changes.”
If Keys wins her quarterfinal, it will mark the first time since 1981 that all four women semifinalists at the U.S. Open are from the United States.
Seth Sarelson is a contributing writer to Long Island Tennis Magazine. An avid tennis player since his grandmother bought him his first tennis racket at the age of 7, Seth grew up on Long Island and trained under Keith Kambourian at Bethpage State Park Tennis Center. He pursued this passion, playing USTA tournaments on Long Island and in the Eastern Region as a junior. A graduate of Cornell University, Seth has coached hundreds of students, run camps and continues to be an avid tennis enthusiast.