CoCo Vandeweghe had been lamenting her inability to get past the second round of her home Grand Slam, going back to her first U.S. Open in 2008, when she lost in the first round as a 16-year-old but subsequently won the girls championship.
Now Flushing Meadows is finally becoming something of a home-sweet-home for her. That’s because with a round of 16 win Monday, she’s all the way into the quarterfinals. Vandeweghe did it with a controlled, precise, powerful effort that portends well, especially since she will be getting No. 1 ranked Karolina Pliskova in the next round.
Vandeweghe defeated the unseeded but never to be underestimated Lucie Safarova, 6-4, 7-6 (2), Arthur Ashe Stadium. She is in the midst of her best Grand Slam season, reaching the semis at the Australian Open, where she lost to Serena Williams, and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
When push came to shove against Safarova, Vandeweghe shoved.
“I think I just picked up more my pace,” Vandeweghe said. “But I knew in the stickier points of the second set where it was getting tight, that I had to show her that I was going to hustle down a few more extra balls. I was going to be present inside the court for her short balls and not let her dictate.”
She also joined Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens in the quarters, a very strong showing for the American women.
It was Vandeweghe’s second serve, a big kicker, that did considerable damage. She won two thirds of her second-serve points and seemed to keep Safarova continually guessing, continually lunging to make a return.
“I find the surface on the center court really takes the high jump and I struggled because everything was up high for me,” Safarova said. “She has a really great second serve and she won a lot of points with that.”
Safarova had won three straight matches against Vandweghe, including a three-setter in the last one at Indian Wells in March. She saw an overall improvement in Vandeweghe’s game.
“She didn’t seem to be doing as many mistakes as in our previous match,” Safarova said. “She was serving really well, her backhand was huge, there is usually more mistakes from that side.”
With the score at 2-1 for Safarova in the tiebreak, Vandeweghe went on a tear. Safarova returned a serve long, Vandeweghe put away a short ball, then slammed a hard forehand to Safarova’s feet as she came to net. Three points later, Vandeweghe had her second career win over Safarova. Vandeweghe’s six consecutive points was her longest run of the match.
Vandeweghe attributes her success this season to the offseason.
“I went into the offseason first time without an injury, and I was able to have a full offseason there,” she said. “I was really confident in my fitness. Tennis just kind of followed suit afterward.”
American Jennifer Brady, a surprise fourth-rounder here, found out what it was like to play on the big stage against a big player when she lost to Pliskova, 6-1, 6-0, in 46 minutes on Ashe.
Still, it was a great run for someone who had only won one match since a fourth-round finish at the Australian Open.
“I think it was just good for me to get a feel for what it’s like playing on a big stage, playing on Ashe,” Brady said, “Next time I play on it, I’ll know what to expect.”
The typically small morning crowd was supporting her, as they have all the American women. “I just didn’t give them the chance to really do that,” she said.