A second-round nailbiter at the bett1open saw No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova defeat Bianca Andreescu 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(7) in 2 hours and 11 minutes to reach her second quarterfinal of 2022.
Prior to this week, Pliskova had only compiled a 6-8 record since returning in March from the wrist fracture she sustained in the off-season. Her deepest tournament run had been a semifinal showing in Strasbourg the week before Roland Garros.
But back on her beloved grass, where Pliskova has collected three Hologic WTA Tour titles and reached last year's Wimbledon final, the 30-year-old was in her element. She had racked up 17 aces in the previous round against Kaia Kanepi, and added 12 more against Andreescu as she escaped from a break down in the third set.
The result is Pliskova's first completed win over the Canadian. She had previously lost to Andreescu 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 in the 2019 Toronto quarterfinals, and won via retirement at the WTA Finals in the same year.
Match management: Neither player managed to seize the momentum during an edgy opening set, exchanging breaks early on as they attempted to impose their game on the other.
Andreescu's intent to rush the net was evident from the start, but her approach shots weren't quite penetrating enough to outdo Pliskova. The Czech repeatedly came up with winning passes, including two as she broke Andreescu in the final game of the set.
The former US Open champion responded with gusto, upping the intensity in every aspect of her game to dominate the next set-and-a-half. This was particularly evident on serve: Andreescu rattled off eight straight holds without facing a break point, and won the first 17 points behind her delivery in the decider. Meanwhile, she persisted with her strategy of swarming the net, but with added aggression to ensure a series of drive volleys were well put away.
Pliskova had dropped serve in the third game of the decider after coming out on the wrong end of an exchange with both players at net, but showed resilience to stay in touch with the surging Andreescu as the set went on. Crucially, serving at 2-4, she staved off two points to go down a double break, both with service winners.
As Andreescu served for the match at 5-4, the 21-year-old had not dropped a point on serve in the set. But at the worst possible time, her purple patch came to an end. Three forehand errors and a double fault allowed Pliskova to level at 5-5.
Andreescu continued to play with real panache as the match entered the home stretch, forcing a deciding tiebreak with a series of superb volleys and saving the first two match points against her once in it. But Pliskova, anchored by her rock-solid serve, played within herself to keep in front; while Andreescu paid the price for trying to force the issue too much. The World No.69 netted a forehand to bring up a third match point, and Pliskova converted it efficiently with a one-two punch.
Pliskova on playing Andreescu: "Of course Bianca is a super-tough opponent, she can really give you anything. Slices, she can play fast, she can serve really well, she can come to the net. So I think there was a little bit of everything in this match. I'm super-proud that I was able to turn the match around, because I was losing in the third set. I thought she was a little bit better in the second and third sets, but I stayed in there and I fought and I got my chances in the end.
Pliskova on escaping the double break in the third set: "If it's on your serve, it's a bit different, because I still believe I have a good serve and no matter the score, I can turn around the game. Even if it's 15-40, 0-40, I can serve quickly two good serves and we are back on deuce. I think that's what happened in that game. But of course, you need to be lucky, stay there, wait for the chances and I got a couple today."
Gauff defeats Li to open campaign
Also on Wednesday, No.7 seed Coco Gauff clinched the last remaining second-round slot with a 6-2, 7-6(2) victory over her fellow American Ann Li.
Playing her first match since her run to her first Grand Slam singles final at Roland Garros, Gauff triumphed in an hour and a half, hitting five aces and converting five of her 10 break points.
Highlights: Gauff d. Li
Gauff charged through the first set in 35 minutes without facing a break point. Gauff then quickly took control of the second set, breaking Li at love in the first game with a forehand crosscourt winner.
But Li’s powerful groundstrokes clicked into place when Gauff served for the match at both 5-4 and 6-5, and Li earned her first two service breaks of the day in those games. However, Gauff regrouped in the tiebreak, where she dominated.
Gauff will face 20-year-old Chinese qualifier Wang Xinyu for a spot in the quarterfinals. This will be their first meeting on the professional circuit, but Gauff defeated Wang 6-4, 6-4 en route to her 2018 Junior Roland Garros title.