CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Karolina Pliskova made an emphatic return to the very tournament where she began her rise to WTA World No.1, easing past Russian talent Natalia Vikhlyantseva, 6-2, 6-3, to kick off her title defense at the Western & Southern Open.
Pliskova won the biggest title of her career in Cincinnati 52 weeks ago, precipitating her run to the US Open final - where she knocked out both Venus and Serena Williams en route - along with second-week appearances at the Australian and French Opens.
The Czech went on to become the 23rd woman to ascend to WTA World No.1 after Wimbledon, and reached the quarterfinals in her first tournament at the top spot in Toronto.
Standing between her and a spot in the Round of 16 was Vikhlyantseva, a lucky loser who earned an impressive win over Donna Vekic once into the main draw. The Russian was fresh off her first WTA final appearance at the Ricoh Open in 's-Hertogenbosch and acquitted herself well in just her second match against a Top 10 player on Wednesday night, dropping just three points behind her first serve.
Still, Pliskova performed perfectly when it counted, saving all five break points faced and dropping only three points behind her first serve - serving at a far higher percentage at that (58% to 43%).
Breaking early in each set, the 25-year-old secured victory after 67 minutes on court, booking a third-round encounter with big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi, who outlasted Daria Gavrilova, 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-3, earlier in the day.