No.14 seed Karolina Pliskova passed an early test posed by a resurgent Venus Williams with flying colors on Tuesday in the first round of the Western & Southern Open in a 7-5, 6-1 victory.
The two former World No.1s were facing off for the first time in five years, and Pliskova scored her third win in four tries against Williams.
Here are three takeaways from Pliskova's 1 hour, 40-minute triumph:
Sprinting to the finish: From 4-2 down in the first set, Pliskova won 11 of the next 13 games to win the match. She was the first player to lose serve in the first set at 2-2, where Williams broke serve from 40-0 down after seven deuces.
The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion didn't face a break point in her first three service games, but did in the next six. Pliskova broke for 4-4 in the first set, and after failing to convert two set points in the 10th game on return, made no mistake on her third in the 12th game.
Williams later saved three break points in the fourth game of the second set to quell some of Pliskova's hard-earned momentum and deny her a sixth straight game. However, her surge was short-lived: Pliskova won the last three games, and 12 of the last 16 points.
Hard courts only: All four of the all-time meetings between Pliskova and Williams have come on hard courts, and Pliskova's won in straight sets twice.
Their most famous meeting, though, was their only three-setter, and also came on U.S. soil: Pliskova saved a match point in a 4-6, 6-4, 7-(3) Round 4 win at the 2016 US Open, where she went all the way to the final.
They last played at the 2017 WTA Finals, where a 6-2, 6-2 round-robin tilt also went to Pliskova.
A happy return: 2016 Cincinnati champion Pliskova is looking to build on the momentum she picked up last week by reaching the semifinals in Toronto. It was her second semifinal of 2022, but the first time in nearly a year that Pliskova got that far at a WTA 1000 event. She last reached the final four in Cincinnati a year ago.
"I feel last week I played some great matches and maybe the best what I have played this year," Pliskova said. "I feel like slowly I'm there now. ... I think I finally got it to a better level. Hard court is my favorite. I always do well in America, so hoping for more matches here."
She's already on a roll. The Czech served eight aces in her opening victory to bring her career total at the event to 152. She passes another former champion Madison Keys (150) for second-place on that list behind Serena Williams (204).
Her draw, though, won't get any easier from here: She'll next face former Top 20 Belgian Elise Mertens, who was a 6-1, 6-1 winner over Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina in her Round 1 match.