MELBOURNE, Australia - No.6 seed Karolina Pliskova kept her hopes of a maiden major title - and a return to the top of the WTA rankings - alive with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Veronica Cepede Royg at the Australian Open.
In a rematch of a titanic encounter at last year's French Open, Pliskova was made to fight in the final few games before ultimately securing the win on her third match point in Rod Laver Arena.
"There was a little complication at the end of the second set," Pliskova explained during her on-court interview. "Otherwise, I'm happy to be through, because it wasn't easy. We played in Paris, and it was also quite close. I'm happy to be through to the next round."
Cepede Royg took the big-serving Czech star to the brink on the terre battue, but Pliskova was on much friendlier territory in Australia, playing on a hardcourt and breaking serve three times to take the opening set behind three aces and 15 winners.
"The conditions can be almost perfect for me. I made the quarterfinals for the first time in my life last year. I want to maybe go one step further, but we will see. I think the tournament is very tough, and as always, everyone wants to play their best tennis. But I'll do my best."
Up 5-2 in the second set, the former US Open finalist found herself close to even but struck a fearless backhand down the line to turn the tide and rode the wave to victory, finishing with 28 winners to 10 from the Paraguyan superstar.
Her seven total aces convert to a $700 donation to help children with oncological issues, with each aces tallying another $100 from her endowment fund.
"Every round is tough, but the first is always the toughest for me. Hopefully I'll feel better in the next one, take it match by match, and I think I'll have a good chance."
British No.1 Johanna Konta looms as a potential fourth round opponent, but in the meantime Pliskova will have to take on either Aussie wildcard Lizette Cabrera or Brazilian hotshot Beatriz Haddad Maia.