LONDON, Great Britain - Unseeded Karolina Muchova needed more than three hours to take down No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova in an all-Czech marathon clash to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
Muchova, who was making her Wimbledon main draw debut this year, took down Aleksandra Krunic, Madison Brengle and No.20 seed Anett Kontaveit on the way to her fourth round battle against Pliskova.
She had to come back from a set down and go extra games in the third set, but Muchova found a way to outlast Pliskova to win, 4-6, 7-5, 13-11 and claim her first Top 10 victory.
“I never played such a long match, I think not even on clay,” Muchova said afterwards. “It was tough. I was happy I could make last game to break her and we didn't have to play a tiebreak.”
Muchova’s win also ends Pliskova’s bid for a return to the WTA World No.1 spot, ensuring that Ashleigh Barty will keep the ranking through the Wimbledon fortnight.
Pliskova recorded a routine first set on Court No.2 against Muchova. The pair traded breaks to start, with Pliskova getting ahead early with a break at 1-0 but Muchova hitting back right away to keep them on serve. But a second Pliskova break late in the set at 5-4 sealed the opener for the Czech No.3 seed.
Muchova was back in the hunt in the second set, taking the ball early and taking time away from Pliskova, and venturing up to the net more to close out points with sharp volleys. The gambit worked, and she broke first to lead 5-3. But - in a move that would come to set the tone for the rest of the match - Pliskova broke right back, saving a set point along the way.
She couldn’t hold off Muchova a second time, and the World No.68 broke once more at 7-5 to level the score at one set apiece.
A victory seemed in the cards for the former World No.1 when Pliskova broke at 3-2, extending her lead to 5-4 and serving for the match. But with Pliskova two points from victory at 40-40, Muchova came storming back to escape with the break, 5-5.
The pair wrestled for the momentum as the game went past the 7-7 mark: at Wimbledon, instead of a standard final-set tiebreaker after 6-6, the set is played out until 12-12 before a tiebreak is introduced.
Pliskova looked to be the more dangerous player for much of the latter half of the set - she held break chances at 5-6 and two more at 8-9 before finally breaking through the Muchova serve at 11-10. But an uncharacteristically nervy service game from ‘ace queen’ Pliskova ended with the No.3 broken to love, a double fault finally handing her opponent a lifeline into the match.
Finally, after a marathon three hours and 18 minutes a netcord winner for Muchova ended the contest, with the unseeded Czech taking her third match point to win the biggest match of her career, 13-11.
“I think I had a lot of chances, for sure,” Pliskova said afterwards. “I think I was not playing the best tennis, for sure, not today. My serve was quite off. I think she just played good. She had nothing to lose, so some shots were quite understandable. She just went for it. A little bit unlucky, but that's how it is.”
Curiously, “Pitch Perfect” actress Rebel Wilson was in Muchova’s box watching her big victory, and afterward the Czech player revealed the pair had struck up a friendship after last year’s US Open.
“She texted me on Twitter last year when I beat [Garbine] Muguruza, so she texted me,” she explained. “I was, like, Wow. I was surprised about that. Yeah, she's just super chill and super nice person.”
Up next, Muchova will face No.8 seed Elina Svitolina in the next round. The Ukranian player edged past Petra Martic to win 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the day to advance.
“I will try my best to recover for tomorrow. Obviously I'm a little tired. But, yeah, still after this press I will do my best to recover for tomorrow.”