Karolina Pliskova served up a vintage performance Saturday to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open, where she'll face Zhang Shuai.
The No.30 seed lost just 11 points in nine service games in a 77-minute, 6-4, 6-2 win over Varvara Gracheva inside Rod Laver Arena, earning her fourth career appearance in the Australian Open second week.
"[The] last couple of years were tough, especially missing it last year. I think the conditions here, they can be quite good for me," Pliskova told reporters afterward.
"I've been playing quite well early in this year. So excited to be here, just enjoying, happy to be back on the center court with two-sets victory."
Classy, Karolina 👌— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2023
The former World No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist is into the fourth round!@KaPliskova • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/yhzP7yvHj0
Match management: Pliskova lost in the third round of the Australian Open in both 2020 and 2021. After missing last year due to injury, she was never under threat of losing in that round again against the woman who upset No.8 seed Daria Kasatkina in the opening round.
Pliskova broke Gracheva in a five-deuce 1-1 game in the opening set and never trailed again in the match. She also broke Gracheva in her first and last service games of the second set.
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"I thought she actually played quite well. I was expecting maybe little bit easier match," Pliskova said. "It's the third round of a Slam so you have to be ready for anything. She beat some good players, but I think I was quite solid, serving well. Didn't really have many troubles out there."
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Fourth round outlook: To reach her fourth career Australian Open quarterfinal, Pliskova will need to beat No.23 seed Zhang, who ended the run of American qualifier Katie Volynets, 6-3, 6-2.
Zhang back in Round 4 for the first time in seven years
For the first time since she reached the quarterfinals in 2016, Zhang is back in the second week after a comprehensive 63-victory against Volynets. She hit 20 winners to the American's nine, broke serve four times and never lost her own.
To return to the last eight, she'll have to break a winless spell against Pliskova. The Czech leads their head-to-head 7-0, with their first meeting coming back in 2012. They haven't played in nearly five full years.
Though she's never beaten Pliskova, she's won a set in four of those matches.