JURMALA, Latvia – No.2 seed Caroline Garcia hung tough to move into the last 16 of the Baltic Open with a grueling 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(6) victory over Kristyna Pliskova.
In a high-quality serving duel, both players had match points before the Frenchwoman moved through after two hours and 51 minutes.
Garcia came into the encounter having never lost a set to the Czech WTA World No.88, but equally had a 1-4 losing record against left-handed players in 2019.
She commanded the duration of the opener after being forced to deuce in her first service game but was then edged in a tight second having held a match point. Despite the setback, she came through the decider, taking her to 13-4 this year when pushed all the way.
Given that only two players have struck more aces in 2019 than Pliskova on the WTA Tour, it was little surprise that serve was the vital factor throughout this match; it was ceded just once in 33 games.
It was, however, the Garcia delivery that proved more potent in the first set as she won 15 of 18 points when her first serve found the mark. This meant that she never faced a break point and indeed after being pushed to deuce in the match’s opening game she dropped only five points on serve.
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Initially, Pliskova was not at the same level in this department. She fell 0-40 down in her opening service game, and while the first point was saved as Garcia erroneously allowed a looping passing shot from the Czech to drop in, she made no mistake given another chance.
The 25-year-old remained on top but barely a hint of a break followed as she got the first on the board.
With small margins defining the match, Pliskova was left frustrated following a disputed line call, having finally gained a foothold in a Garcia service game. Her protests led to a code violation, but she rapidly regained her cool to maintain parity.
An engrossing second set, in which both players struck more winners than unforced errors, was decided by a tiebreak. Garcia would live to regret the four break points she missed as she succumbed to the big serving of her opponent, who struck 13 aces in the second set alone.
The decider followed a similarly tight pattern. WTA World No.22 Garcia was making the greater inroads, but Pliskova defended her serve phenomenally well on the big points.
Never was this more evident as she fell three match points down at 0-40, 4-5. That she saved the third with an ace down the ‘T’ was typical of her stoicism as the match rolled on, ultimately into another breaker.
Her graft was rewarded with a match point in the decider, yet it was shut down by a brilliant Garcia forehand, which clicked her up a gear in these final critical moments, sealing victory at the fifth time of asking.
Compatriot Chloe Paquet or Basak Eraydin awaits in the second round.