ROME, Italy - No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova needed just two sets to overcome Ajla Tomljanovic and take her place in the third round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Pliskova opened up a 4-1 lead in the first set and a 4-0 lead in the second en route to a solid straight sets victory, sealing the 6-3, 6-3 win after just 71 minutes.
“I think it was a really good match from me, because the conditions were tough,” Pliskova explained afterwards. “It was very windy and cold, so I think we were not really playing our best tennis. But I was a little bit better. I was serving well, so I managed to win.”
The Czech player was eager to bounce back strongly after a viral illness derailed the start of her clay season. She fell in the opening round of Stuttgart - where she had been the defending champion - and in the second round of Madrid as she struggled with the illness.
But the Brisbane champion looked to be firing on all cylinders against Tomljanovic, striking 15 winners to her opponent’s 12, and keeping her own unforced error count in check at 17, with Tomljanovic far outpacing her with 31. As a result, Pliskova created break chances galore, converting four of 14 opportunities while Tomljanovic managed just one break of serve.
Pliskova took advantage of a passive start from Tomljanovic to grab an early break for a 3-1 lead, and consolidated to love after a spate of loose errors gifted her the hold. The Australian player struggled to find her rhythm, and her usually sharp game seemed to be absent against Pliskova: she struck 19 unforced errors in the first set alone, more than double of Pliskova’s nine.
One break of serve made all the difference in the first set, with Tomljanovic having to save five break points at 4-1 as Pliskova threatened to get ahead a double break. The Czech herself didn’t face a single break point as she served out the set with confidence.
Pliskova didn’t face too much of a challenge at the start of the second set, and she quickly built up a daunting double break lead, 4-0. Pliskova forced Tomljanovic to always hit one more ball, and was rewarded with free points in the form of unforced errors.
With her back against the wall and seeking to extend her stay in Rome, Tomljanovic found another gear late in the set and rallied back. She held serve for the first time in the set at 4-1, and raised her level to break Pliskova, reeling off three games in a row to cut down the Czech’s lead to 4-3.
But despite her opponent’s efforts the always-cool Pliskova remained unrattled, and she quickly regained control of the match as she surged ahead to serve out the match, sealing the 6-3, 6-3 victory.
“I think the serve was the key today,” Pliskova said. “She was missing too much, and I was more patient. I was staying in the rallies, and she was missing way too much.
“It’s always difficult in the first round, it’s always tough first round here for me. In Rome I never really won anything here, so it’s good that I’m through.”
Into the third round in Rome for the second time in her career, Pliskova now awaits the winner between No.13 seed Madison Keys or Sofia Kenin in an all-American second-round matchup.