NEW YORK—Tap-dancing in place, Alison Riske bounced inside the baseline eagerly awaiting an approaching serve. Even when she wasn’t moving forward, Riske looked like a woman going places.
The 81st-ranked American wild card played near flawless tennis in reeling off eight consecutive games to close a stunning 6-3, 6-0 rout of an ailing Petra Kvitova and roar into the fourth round.
It was Riske’s first career Top 10 win, propelling her into her first round-of-16 at a major as she continued her strong surge this summer. Prior to Wimbledon in June, Riske had never won a Grand Slam match. Now, the 23-year-old from Pittsburgh who once contemplated a career in medicine is operating with the precision of a player intent on continuing this run.
The seventh-seeded Kvitova clearly wasn’t herself today. Apparently suffering from a virus-induced fever, she looked lethargic and lost, could not consistently find the court, and took treatment from the tournament doctor late in the second set. Credit Riske for taking the match to a depleted Kvitova; serving with accuracy—she did not permit more than two points in any of her service games—and exuding plenty of positive energy from the very first ball.
The pair met in New Haven the week before the Open, with Kvitova squeezing out a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3 victory. Riske recalled that experience, striking with consistent depth and exploring the edges to the court to make the slower Czech move. The former Vanderbilt player’s game is predicated on aggressive court positioning, and her flat strikes generated by brief backswings that are tough to read. Redirecting a Kvitova blast, Riske rifled a short-angled forehand winner cross-court to hold for 2-all.
Kvitova cracked in an abysmal fifth game, clanking opening and closing double faults in a four-error mess to donate serve for 3-2. Riske backed up the break at 15. When Kvitova shoveled a mid-court forehand beyond the baseline, Riske had her second break and a one-set lead after 31 minutes of play.
Monica Seles was Riske’s tennis role model, and she adopts a similar predatory posture on her return, greeting the 2011 Wimbledon winner’s serve with punishing intent in registering five breaks on the day. On one, she blasted a backhand return winner down the line for her fourth break point and then Kvitova crumbled, failing to move her feet and decelerating her racquet. She poked a tame backhand into net as Riske broke for a 2-0 second-set lead. When she got up, Riske didn’t play it safe. She continued to take the ball early, go after her shots, and drain more errors from her dazed opponent, stretching her advantage to 3-0 after 48 minutes of play.
Riske rapped an inside-out forehand winner to hold for 5-0 after 58 minutes. Then Kvitova, who suffers from asthma, called for the tournament doctor. The doctor checked her blood pressure, gave her some medication, and Kvitova returned to the court while Riske stayed warm, hitting practice serves before sealing her biggest win with a cross-court backhand and a clenched fist.
Next up for Riske is a fourth-round match with either Julia Glushko or Daniela Hantuchova, who beat Riske—5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in the Birmingham semifinals in June.
IBM Stat of the Match: Though her fastest serve was just 103 MPH, Riske won 22 of 26 first-serve points and did not face a break point.
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