Four times, 2014 US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki was one point from winning. Four times, her opponent in the second round this year, 149th-ranked Czech Petra Cetkovska came up with a winner to extend the match.
Fourth-seeded Wozniacki failed to convert any of those chances to close it out and lost 6-4 5-7 7-6 (7-1) to Cetkovska, who had not won a tour-level main-draw match all season until playing this week at Flushing Meadows.
“I can only blame myself,” Wozniacki said. “You always think back: I should have done this; I should have done that.”
She held one match point while ahead 5-4 in the third set, then three more at 6-5 – each time with Cetkovska serving.
“I said, ‘It’s now or never’,” Cetkovska said, “so I just went for it.”
It was a back-and-forth match that began under the lights and seesawed wildly for three hours, until it finished after midnight (local time) as Thursday turned to Friday. The women combined for 12 breaks of serve.
“I let her play well,” said Wozniacki, who had made the final at the US Open twice, losing to Serena Williams last year and to Kim Clijsters in 2009.
Wozniacki’s exit means only three of the top-10 seeded women are left after two rounds: No.1 Williams, second-ranked Simona Halep and No.5 Petra Kvitova.
This was Wozniacki’s third second-round loss at a major this season following the Australian and French opens. She made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon.
“I’m obviously not thrilled with the grand slam year, that’s for sure,” the Dane said. “I think I can do much better.”
Wozniacki won the first three games and led 4-2 at the start. Then Cetkovska won seven games in a row to take the opening set and lead by two breaks in the second.
But Wozniacki made her way back into it, helped by Cetkovska’s seeming inability to play well from in front.
She arrived at Flushing Meadows with a 0-5 record this year, until beating American Christina McHale in the first round. A hip injury forced Cetkovska off the tour for about seven months until the start of 2015, and she was able to get into the field in New York thanks to a rule protecting players’ rankings if they miss time because of injury or illness.
“I was so happy to be able to be back and to compete. And this happens tonight, in front of all of you,” Cetkovska told spectators. “It’s amazing for me.”
Cetkovska books a third-round match against Italian 26th seed Flavia Pennetta.
Wozniacki wasn’t the only major casualty on the day with Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza sent packing by red-hot Briton Johanna Konta 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (4-7) 6-2.
Australian Samantha Stosur overcame a shocking snub to power her way into the third round, the 2011 US Open champion mauling Russian Evgeniya Rodina 6-1 6-1.
The last player to beat Serena Williams in New York, No.22 seed Stosur put in an ominous performance, needing only 51 minutes to book a date on Saturday with Italian 16th seed Sara Errani.