On Sunday, at the Western & Southern Open—held at the very same venue as the looming Grand Slam—both the Czech and the American took straight-set defeats in their opening-round matches. Pliskova fell to 41st-ranked Veronika Kudermetova, 7-5, 6-4, while Kenin suffered an even more lopsided loss, 6-1, 7-6 (7) to 60th-ranked Alize Cornet.
Now you see them, now you don't. (Getty Images)
While the scoreline of Kenin’s defeat isn’t far removed from Pliskova’s, Cornet led 6-1, 5-2, and served at 40-15, before a pair of seemingly dooming collapses. The Frenchwoman dropped four straight games before holding serve again; in the ensuing tiebreaker, she lost five consecutive points from 4-1. But Cornet caught a huge break, and won a mini-break for 6-6, when a streaking Kenin suddenly overcooked a forehand at net that would have forced a decider.
Even after failing to convert a third match point on her serve, Cornet, who played almost exclusively defense over the last 30 minutes of this match—sometimes impeccably, it must be said—got the win off a Kenin backhand error.
Full match highlights:
“I didn’t feel like I had any rhythm,” said Kenin afterward. “I literally couldn’t put the ball [in play] for two sets. I don’t even know how I came back to be honest.
“I played well this whole time, I literally don’t know what happened.”
It was a similarly perplexing exit for Pliskova, whose low-margin/high-reward groundstrokes were undone by poor footwork, leading to a rash of unforced errors.
And it wasn’t the first big win for Kudermetova, who has now beaten three Top 10 players in her brief career.
Their opponents were hardly hackers, and the unprecedented pro-tour hiatus makes any result at a first tournament back seem plausible. But these results should still concern fans of Pliskova, who has come close to a major breakthrough, including a US Open runner-up, but has never crossed the finish line; and supporters of Kenin, who played plenty of tennis this summer, but looked nothing like the Australian Open champion she is today.