Top-seeded Karolina Pliskova walked onto the Ashe Stadium court at noon Monday to pumped-in cheers for the first stadium match at the fan-less US Open.
She warmed up against Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina with music blaring. But when Pliskova hit an ace for the first point, the stadium remained eerily dead silent.
Pliskova recorded seven aces to Kalinina’s zero as the No. 1 seed from the Czech Republic posted a 6-4, 6-0 cakewalk over Kalinina.
After her on-court interview was done for television, Pliskova took a ball and belted it into the empty upper deck.
Pliskova was vaulted to the top seed because six of the top ten women’s players opted out, including defending champion Bianca Andreescu and the top-two ranked players, Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep.
In an surreal setting, about 25 fans were spread out in the stadium – assorted journalists and players who were popping in and out after their practice matches.
After a few of Pliskova’s winners, the only sound was her coach, Daniel Valiverdu, clapping from the otherwise empty player’s box.
“I would rather have fans,’’ Pliskova said. “I didn’t know whether to cheer myself on or stay calm. We had a couple of tournaments back home and there were some fans but this empty.’’