INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova overcame a mid-match wobble to continue her progress at the BNP Paribas Open, notching a hard-fought three set win over No.32 seed Zhang Shuai.
Despite Pliskova leading by a break in all three sets, Zhang just kept coming back. Pliskova needed two and a half hours to finally put her away, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.
“I think my energy dropped a little bit, and at that point when my energy dropped hers went up,” Pliskova said, explaining her second set slowdown. “She really went for it and was aggressive, going for the shots and even some lucky ones.
“I tried to put my energy up in the beginning of the third set, and she helped me with a few mistakes. Thanks god I served it out. In the third set I think my serve helped me quite a lot.”
With the win, Pliskova has now won her last 10 matches against Chinese players - including five against Zhang. And she extends her dominance over Zhang, as well, putting their head-to-head record at 7-0.
It was a tough battle to get there though, with Pliskova and Zhang locked into a tug of war battle. The pair traded breaks to start the opening set before Pliskova got her nose in front, breaking at 3-2 and hanging onto the lead for much of the set.
But she had trouble getting over the finish line as her normally deadly serve broke down. Zhang raised her level to get the break back with Pliskova trying to serve out the set at at 5-4. Despite the Chinese player’s effort, she couldn’t hold off Pliskova as the Czech got back on track, reeling off the next two games to close it out.
This pattern unfolded in the next set as well, with Pliskova earning an early lead and Zhang fighting her way back in it; Pliskova broke first at 3-2, but a shaky service game gave Zhang the break back at 4-4.
— WTA (@WTA) March 11, 2018
Pliskova found herself down three set points at 6-5 and but in a huge serving performance - including back-to-back aces - to get out of trouble. Zhang kept pressing forcing errors out of Pliskova before finally converting on her seventh set point off a netcord winner, sending the match into a third set.
Pliskova finally seemed to find her range on serve in the final set. After once again starting with a break - this time in Zhang’s very first service game to go up 2-0 - she was finally able to protect her own serve more effectively. Pliskova dropped just three points in all her third-set service games, posting two love holds, and broke once more to put an end to the pair’s titanic clash.
— WTA (@WTA) March 11, 2018
Through to the fourth round at Indian Wells for the fourth time, Pliskova will take on world-beating teenage wildcard Amanda Anisimova in her next match. The American stunned No.9 seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets earlier in the day to advance to round four.
“I saw a little bit [of that match] when I was waiting today,” Pliskova said. “I think Petra was really off today, so it’s tough to say. But [Anisimova] really seems like she’s going for her shots - you know, when you’re 16 you have nothing to lose.
“But I think I’m going to mix up my game, I think she likes speed. With Petra, I think she liked the rhythm of her game, so I’ll try to change it.”
Pliskova has reached the semifinals in her past two Indian Wells appearances.