BRISBANE, Australia – Alison Riske became the first player to book a spot in the 2020 Brisbane International quarterfinals, as the American defeated Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4, in the Premier-level event on Wednesday.
"It was a good win for me," Riske said, during her post-match press conference. "[Strycova is] going to be a tough out every time you play her. She makes a lot of balls, she's in every point, and she's battling until the end. So it was definitely going to be a tough match.
"I thought I fought really hard, I played well when I needed to, and I'm definitely excited to be making the quarterfinals here."
Riske had lost both of her two previous meetings with Strycova, but the World No.19 continued her strong momentum from the end of last season, where she cracked the Top 20 for the first time in her career, and earned a 93-minute victory over the 31st-ranked Czech.
In just her second appearance in the Brisbane main draw (her only prior showing coming in 2015), Riske eased to victory after crushing 30 winners in the encounter, to her opponent's eight. Riske broke Strycova five times in the tilt.
"I think getting a couple matches under my belt and just knowing that we're picking up where we left off is most important," said Riske. "I knew my tennis was there because I had been practicing very well. But obviously, the mental [side] is the most important, so I had to make sure that I had that prepared."
After early holds to get to 1-1, a flurry of games dominated by the returner occurred, after which Riske was the one left standing with a 3-2 lead. The American then quelled that run of breaks, blasting a backhand winner to hold for 4-2.
The American continued to propel herself through the opening set with powerful play. She would quickly find herself on the verge of a commanding lead after forcing an error with another beautiful backhand to reach double set point on Strycova's service at 5-3.
Riske converted the first of those set points with a stirring forehand return winner down the line -- her 12th winner of the opening frame. The American had only three unforced errors in the first set, and successfully converted three of her five break points during that timeframe.
Strycova got off to a better start in the second set, breaking Riske in the opening game, but the American swiftly got back to level footing, breaking back straight away by forcing an error with another booming service return.
The combatants kept things tightly matched through 4-4, where Riske nearly let a 40-0 lead that was attained through stellar serving slip away. At 40-30, though, Riske successfully challenged an out call that had gone against her, and on the replayed point, the American fired a winning forehand to hold on for 5-4.
That game would pay dividends immediately, as Riske fired more winners -- one clipping the netcord and dribbling over into the Strycova court -- to reach match point in the very next game. There, Strycova pushed a volley long, and Riske had sealed her spot in the last eight.
Riske will now face either defending champion Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic or Australian wild card Ajla Tomljanovic in the quarterfinals. World No.2 Pliskova and Tomljanovic will contest their second-round encounter on Thursday.
If Riske faces Pliskova, she will face a third straight Czech opponent in the draw. Riske ousted 21st-ranked Karolina Muchova in the opening round before eliminating Strycova.
"Either way it's going to be a tough match, as is every match out here," said Riske, looking forward to the next round. "I've never beaten Pliskova before, so I would love to have another shot at her. I think that would be an awesome opportunity. I practiced with her earlier in the week and she's playing ball."
"I'm excited for it, and just excited to go out there and give myself another shot," Riske concluded.