Injured Brengle falls in first round of U.S. Open

By Michael J. Lewis

Special to the State News

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. — If Madison Brengle never wanted to play again on Court 4 of the Billie Jean King National Center, no one could blame her.

In what might sound a little like the script for Groundhog Day, the 27-year-old tennis player from Dover once again lost a first-round match at the U.S. Open due to an injury.

Last year, an allergic reaction to a random drug test a few days before her first match caused Brengle’s right arm to swell and gave her immense pain, forcing her to retire in the second set of her match on Court 4.

Wednesday night, the injury wasn’t as severe but still caused problems. Brengle suffered a cut on the ring finger of her right hand in practice on Tuesday that got infected and severely bruised overnight.

Unable to generate her usual pace on her serve and on her slice backhand, Brengle battled hard but fell to Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, 6-2, 6-3.

“It was just a small little cut that I got while hitting, and then it got infected and it woke up looking like this,” Brengle said after the match. “It looks a little like ‘The Walking Dead’ or something. It’s just disappointing. It just stinks.”

Brengle, who came into the Open ranked No. 81 and owning impressive wins over Serena Williams and two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova in 2017, just never got her full arsenal of shots working at the same time Wednesday.

Flipkens, ranked No. 73, had beaten Brengle both times they’ve played and jumped on the Delawarean from the start. Using her slice backhand to keep the ball low and taking advantage of Brengle’s slower-than-usual groundstrokes, Flipkens broke out to a 4-1 lead.

“The first set I definitely was out of sorts,” Brengle said. “I feel like I calmed down a bit in the second set, and that three-all game in the second set I had my chances.”

After losing the first set in 24 minutes, Brengle quickly fell behind 3-0 in the second set, as Flipkens kept the pressure on.

“I could swing across my body, but she slices really well so it was hard for me to get under the ball like I normally would,” Brengle said. “She’s a very good player, and by the time I was able to get my timing down, it was too late.”

But Brengle finally found the rhythm on her shots at that point, and ripped off three straight games to even the set at 3-3.

“I think I got the timing down a little better,” Brengle said. “I felt like I wasn’t being very aggressive, and when I tried to, I was swinging on the wrong plane a little. Her ball stays quite low, so I feel like I was shanking so much when I was trying to be aggressive in the first set. Then I started to adjust to where I needed to play, and I feel like that helped but it was too late.”

After leading 40-15 in the 3-3 game, Brengle wasn’t able to grab her first lead of the match. Five straight points from the Belgian Flipkens put her back in front, and Brengle wasn’t able to make another comeback.

With her U.S. Open over in singles, Brengle was left to look forward to the doubles draw, where she’ll partner with Varvara Lepchenko on Thursday to face the Spanish team of Lara Arrubarrena and Arantxa Parra Santonja.

“She beat me fair and square, it’s just disappointing to not be able to be at my best,” Brengle said. “But hopefully it (the finger) will get better quickly.”

Michael J. Lewis is a freelance writer living in New York.

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