DUBAI, UAE – No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova eased into the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over qualifier Kristina Mladenovic.
Although the WTA World No.3 was below her best in terms of her serving, she found the resources to score victory in one hour eight minutes against an opponent she had eliminated from the Australian Open previously this year.
Mladenovic, fresh from her first main draw victory of 2020, was punished for a couple of loose service games in the opening set and was unable to generate any significant momentum in the second as her record in the last-16 of Dubai slumped to 0-4.
By contrast, Pliskova was solid throughout, making 14 winners to just 10 unforced errors and converting on four of seven break points.
“It’s always a tough one against her. We played in Australia, so I knew what to expect. It was quite a solid first round,” she said after taking her record against the 26-year-old to 4-2 in her favor.
“I think the score little bit is easier than it really was. I think we had couple tough games.
“But overall I think I had it pretty much all the match under my control. Even though she played some great shots, some good serves, I think I was in charge of most of the games.
“I like these conditions. I like to play in the sun. It’s a little bit faster, which is better.”
And although she had lost to Mladenovic previously in Dubai - back in 2013 - that was not a factor that played on her mind.
“With my game, there is not really anybody who I would be super scared of because it's mostly about me. Of course, sometimes it can be even I play good, but I can still lose, especially to the top players, especially to the players which also have a big game,” she said.
“But I think with her it has always been more about me. I'm not saying I can't lose. If I'm solid, if I am there just focus every point, I think it should not happen.”
Having played four matches, including three qualifiers, to reach this point against an opponent untested in these conditions this year, it might have been expected that the French No.1 would settle quicker, but Pliskova rattled through her opening service game after serving a double fault.
Neither player’s delivery would be impressive over the course of the match, with Mladenovic serving four of her five first-set double faults in the second game, allowing Pliskova to break under relatively little strain.
It set the tone for the opening set, in which Mladenovic wrestled with her consistency while Pliskova was able to churn out service holds without facing a break point, despite making only 46% of her first deliveries on serve.
Pliskova maintained the ascendancy at the beginning of the second as the 2019 Fed Cup winner continued to struggle to find her groove. A quick break gave the Czech the advantage, which she built upon with an awkward service hold.
Serve continued to be an issue for Mladenovic, though she continued to scrap away and showed some real moments of quality, such as a deft dropshot to get on the board in the second set or a scooped backhand winner to flick the balls off her toes to move to 3-2.
Although she was able to set up opportunities, such as a forehand chance to go 0-30 up on the Pliskova serve in the third game, these were invariably missed.
Pliskova was not so charitable, and after another shaky service game from Mladenovic, she secured a double break then held once more to set up a quarterfinal against Elena Rybakina, who downed Pliskova's Fed Cup teammate Katerina Siniakova, later in the day on Wednesday.