|US Open 2019|
|Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 26 Aug – 8 Sep|
|Coverage: Live text and radio commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app|
Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova is among the favourites to win the women’s singles at the US Open, which starts in New York on Monday.
In her first BBC Sport column, the 2016 finalist talks about having a hit with the legendary John McEnroe, her hopes of finally winning a first Grand Slam, realising Beyonce was watching her play at Flushing Meadows – and which movie you should next watch at the cinema…
As part of my US Open preparations, I spent my first two days of practising in New York at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, where I also got to hit with the legend himself.
I was practising with my coach Conchita Martinez and she asked John if he wanted to hit. He looked quite tired because he had just finished his session, but said he was OK to hit for 15 to 20 minutes.
It was competitive. I played a shot about five metres out and he was running like crazy to get this ball! He is super fit for his age and he still loves tennis.
The competitive edge never disappears. He still has amazing hands – he went to the net a lot and you could see that he really feels the ball on the racquet.
He also gave me advice about coming to the net a little more often. Speaking to great champions like John and Conchi can really help me.
It is always good to have someone who has been there at the top level, somebody who has won the biggest tournaments and knows what they are talking about when we are discussing certain situations.
‘I believe I can go far at every Grand Slam’
Winning a Grand Slam is my dream. Having reached the final in 2016, being here definitely brings back great memories and motivation and I hope to go one step further – but you have to play your best in every match.
I believe there is a chance for me to go far at every Grand Slam, but it really is a step-by-step process focusing on one match at a time and one point at a time.
I’ve shown I have got the game to be successful at the majors, I have had a solid year so far with steady results and three titles, and I have a coach who has experienced these moments, so I will build up on that. But the journey at a Grand Slam is long and very different to the other tournaments because you cannot lose focus over the whole two weeks.
At the US Open, I will not be taking a day off – I need to practise on the days between matches. You can’t afford to take a day off where you’re not thinking about tennis.
I feel great at the moment and come into this event having reached the quarter-finals in Toronto and Cincinnati.
Of course, those two tournaments were still not as good as I was expecting, but I lost to two good players in Bianca Andreescu, who went on to win the Rogers Cup, and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is always tough to beat.
I played some good matches in Toronto and Cincinnati and the goal during the North American swing is to get solid preparation for the US Open so going out in two quarter-finals is not something I am super frustrated about.
I also played the Cincinnati doubles with my twin sister, Kristyna, which was fun because we haven’t played for a while and reached the semi-finals.
So I have had some nice moments since I’ve been in North America and I’m ready to start on Monday.
‘Celebrities, Kiss Cam, dancing – it’s more of a show here’
Playing at the US Open is always special for me because of the memories I have of reaching the final.
There are a number of reasons why I think I’ve done well here. First, the hard court is my favourite surface – I move better on it and feel more confident, and that’s why I enjoy it more.
Another factor is the atmosphere at Flushing Meadows, which is very different to the other Grand Slams.
The chance to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium is always fun because it is more like a show here. It is not always only about tennis.
The atmosphere is more relaxed, there is music playing and the fans are all having fun.
Here they have celebrities appearing on the big screen, there is ‘Kiss Cam’ and you see people dancing on the changeovers.
I always like to look around at what’s happening, because sometimes it is better to see different things rather than just thinking about tennis.
One of my favourite memories was seeing Beyonce in the crowd at one of my matches. It made me smile to know a superstar like her was in the same place as me.
A lot of players say they don’t notice what is happening at the changeovers because they are really focused – but I think they do look!
‘My three cinema trips in a week’
Normally going to the cinema isn’t something I do too regularly, but I went three times in a week recently – two days in a row in Toronto and then another day in Cincinnati.
We were far away from the downtown in Toronto and there was nothing to do, so I suggested going because there are a couple of good films out.
We saw the new Lion King, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Fast And Furious Presents: Hobbs And Shaw.
Everyone has been talking about Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and saying it is an incredible movie because it is a Quentin Tarantino film starring Leonardo di Caprio and Brad Pitt.
But I thought it was too long – about three hours – and not too interesting. So I would recommend Fast And Furious, that was the most fun and my favourite out of the three.
And, of course, I eat lots of popcorn when I go! I always have sweet caramel – and always take the biggest size. And I have a big cola…
When you go to the cinema you never think about the athlete’s diet. It is a must have, so I’m not going to be super healthy there!