MIAMI, FL, USA - Former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova survived a stern test from Alizé Cornet, outlasting the Frenchwoman, 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-4 to reach the fourth round at the Miami Open.
"I think it was a good match from both of us," Pliskova said after the match. "Of course, it was a little bit windy. The conditions later in the afternoon aren’t the fastest, but I think she played well. It’s definitely the best match she’s played against me."
Seeded No.5 at the Hard Rock Stadium, Pliskova shook off a disappointed first set defeat to serve out the victory after two hours and 36 minutes on Grandstand.
The three-time WTA Ace Leader had won her last two meetings with Cornet without dropping a set and looked to take a strong start as she broke serve in the third game of the match.
Ranked as high as World No.11, Cornet suddenly turned the tables on the Czech powerhouse, breaking straight back and taking a 4-2 lead of her own. Even as Pliskova leveled, Cornet continued to draw out the play and forced a tie-break and, from 3-1 down, won the final six points to put herself one set from victory.
"She can sometimes have a difficult game for me because she hits with a lot of spin, but then the backhand is flat. I think I was missing more in the first set. I could have played better, having a break up and some chances, but she made me play a lot of shots and rallies."
A thigh injury, one for which she would receive a medical timeout, ultimately halted her momentum as Pliskova reasserted herself, sweeping the first five games after some back-and-forth deuce games in the middle, forcing a decider on her second set point.
Close to defeat - if not a mid-match retirement, Cornet nonethless kept the pressure on Pliskova through the third set, keeping the contest to just one break and forcing the 2016 US Open finalist to serve out the match.
Undaunted by the task, Pliskova would end the match with an ace - her ninth - to secure her spot in the Round of 16.
"I think I didn’t give up. Not that I was close to it, but it was tough after the first set, playing for an hour and 20 minutes. It was exhausting and too long. I’m glad I stayed there. She started making mistakes that she wasn’t making in the first set.
"I improved my game, and I knew it was going to be a lot about me today, which it was. It’s not always easy to play matches when you feel like you have every shot in your hands, because you still have to make the shot."
In all, she struck an astounding 48 winners to 43 unforced errors, converted five of 21 break point opportunities, and maintained an impressive 75% winning percentage behind her first serve. While Cornet struck 29 winners of her own, the 29-year-old will be left to rue missed break point opportunities - particularly two in the sixth game of the final set.
Up next for Pliskova is two-time Roland Garros quarterfinalist Yulia Putintseva, whom the Czech narrowly beat en route to winning the Brisbane International title back in January.
"I think this was good preparation for Putintseva, especially with the game. It’s going to be similar; she also plays a spin forehand with a flatter backhand. She defends great from the baseline, and so she can be tough, but it’s going to be about me.
"I’ve beaten her a couple of times, even in Brisbane, when I wasn’t playing that well. I want to stay with my legs on the ground, but I think if I play solid, there’s always a chance against her because it’s not like she’s going to kill me from the baseline or ace me. I still have to play good tennis."
Pliskova will be back on court Monday for another night session, having spent Saturday sight-seeing with twin sister Kristyna.
"I went to sleep and didn’t get up until around 11, so half the day was already gone!" she laughed. "In the afternoon, I went to the Design District. It was nice, and I like this part of Miami. We did a little bit of shopping and had coffee."