WATCH: The former No. 1 ran into an in-form Iga Swiatek at the Omnium Banque Nationale earlier this month.

NEW YORK—If Holger Rune needed a map find Court 5, Karolina Pliskova surely called for Jelena Jankovic’s helicopter upon hearing she would kick off her 2023 US Open campaign out on the utterly anonymous Court 14.

But the former No. 1 and full-time tennis fan found herself enjoying the vibe as she breezed past Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse, 6-1, 6-4.

“You know what? I like to look around, and there were some matches around me,” she joked after the match on Tuesday. “Sometimes it’s good to put the focus somewhere else for a little bit. Of course, everyone wants to play on the center court or even just bigger courts, but that’s going to come if we keep on winning.

“I’m not too dramatic about this. No matter which court they put me on, I just play.”

Pliskova has largely played on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center’s biggest stages since reaching the final in 2016—a year in which she beat both Williams sisters en route—but playing in her 11th US Open main draw, she was grateful to be seeded after an injury-addled put her outside of the Top 20.

“It’s better at the Slams because you don’t have to play the best players in the first or second round,” she explained.

“I’ve had some good matches, but you also need a little luck with the draw. I feel like I’ve been playing quite well here in North America but I’ve been up against tough opponents. I played Iga [Swiatek] once and [Jelena] Ostapenko in a close match.”

Also in the Czech’s favor are more balanced conditions, which Pliskova believes come from a combination of quicker courts with the newly-introduced Extra Duty tennis balls.


“I feel like every week it’s a different ball!” she joked. “They call it the same ball, but I’m not feeling like that. I think everyone is having some feedback about it. So far, Montréal was the slowest for me. Cincinnati was much faster and the ball felt a little bit different because it was getting bald.

“Here, it’s something in the middle, but the courts are quite fast. I didn’t have many rallies today. You can still hit aces and if you hit fast and flat, it’s tough to get back.”

The 31-year-old has long thrived on fast surfaces, having finished runner-up at Wimbledon back in 2021, and hopes the decision to play doubles with good friend Donna Vekic will help expedite her match fitness after winning just one between London and New York.

“Sometimes it’s better than practice and I was looking for some matches, and so was she,” she said of Vekic, who fell in the first round of her singles to Sachia Vickery. “We thought it would be good since both of us are more focused on singles, it’ll be easy to do what we want or withdraw.

“We just take it easy, speaking about everything,” she added of their breezy on-court communication. “So, it’s completely no pressure with her.”

A Broadway enthusiast, Pliskova hasn’t found time to take in a show but made her annual pilgrimage to SoHo to shop, and hopes a longer stay will allow her to enjoy all New York has to offer.

“I always play well here,” she said in her inimitably straightforward style. “To be honest, this was a good start, so I can build on this match. It’s kind of open with me; things can go fast in either direction! I can turn the form quite quickly and end up playing good tennis again. Of course, everything is possible.”

Her next singles match will be against Clara Burel—ideally (or not) on a bigger court—with No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka looming for what would be a rematch of their 2022 US Open quarterfinal.