MELBOURNE, Australia - Former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova rallied from a set down to defeat unseeded American Madison Brengle, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 in a rain-delayed clash at the Australian Open, reaching the third round in Melbourne for a fifth straight year.
"This match had a little bit of everything," Pliskova said during her on-court interview. "Some breaks, some good tennis, and some bad mistakes from me too. The first set wasn't very good from my side, but she played some good points and was very solid.
"I got a little bit frustrated, but she played great," she continued in her post-match press conference. "She was using my pace, which she always does, but I think the conditions were good for her here. The balls are fast, and so is the court, so she used her backhand a lot. I made more mistakes than I should, but I refocused and tried to be more aggressive, because I didn't want to miss or overplay at the beginning. Once I found the way I wanted to play, it worked."
The two-time Brisbane International champion struggled to find her range to start the match but settled in well to maintain her unbeaten start to 2019, securing victory after one hour and 38 minutes on Melbourne Arena.
Brengle came into Thursday's match fresh off her first WTA main draw win of the season, dropping just four games against Misaki Doi to play Pliskova for the third time in her career. Despite never winning a set in their two previous encounters, Brengle appeared a different player early on, breaking serve in the fifth game and again in the ninth to serve out the opening set to 15.
"I felt pretty good after the first round. In my practices, I was hitting the ball quite cleanly, so I knew it would be about my focus today. In the first set, it wasn't great, but I managed to get back in the match and win it."
Pliskova pulled off multiple comebacks in Brisbane - including the final against Lesia Tsurenko - and swiftly switched gears in the second, striking 20 winners to just 12 unforced errors to level the match after roaring out to a 5-0 advantage.
"If you have some three-setters under your belt, it always helps, especially if you win them or fight from a set and breaks down - as I did in Brisbane. That gave me some positive thinking today. I knew if I'm there, she cannot hurt me that much. I tried to focus and close more points at the net. Overall, I like to play three sets. I win a lot of them!"
The three-time WTA Ace Leader brought that momentum into the decider, winning the first eight points to move ahead 2-0.
A short rain delay caused a mix of bemusement and frustration from both players, who were on a court with an available - but as yet unused - roof. Ultimately, the storm passed but Pliskova maintained her intensity to earn an astounding triple-break lead upon resumption.
In all, the Ace Queen struck seven aces and 45 winners to 29 unforced errors, while Brengle was ultimately undone by 24 unforced errors - 16 of those coming in the final two sets. Encouraged to come to net more by her coaching team of Rennae Stubbs and Conchita Martinez, Pliskova approached an impressive 35 times, winning 27 of those points.
Standing between the No.7 seed and a third straight appearance in the second week is the always dangerous No.27 seed, Camila Giorgi.
"So far, I get a completely different opponent every time!" she joked in press. "I've played her a few times, but you never know what can happen, what will come off her racquet. It can be an amazing winner or a mistake. Still, I don't want to think too much about her because I still have my weapons, and can do things on my side.
"Sometimes I'm just going to look at some balls because she can play amazing, but I can play well too. I need to be clever, put a lot of balls back, and not be passive. She likes the conditions here; she won her two matches pretty easily, so it's going to be tough."
The Italian booked her spot in the third round after a decisive win over Polish teenager Iga Swiatek earlier in the day; Swiatek served notice last summer when she won the junior Wimbledon title and was making her Grand Slam main draw debut as a qualifier.
Giorgi and Pliskova have played five times before, with the former's only win coming on clay back in 2017 at the J&T Banka Prague Open; the latter avenged that loss four months later at the Western & Southern Open on hardcourts in Cincinnati.
"It's the best to play the first match and win, so you have a day and a half off. My sister [Kristyna] plays today, so I might watch, rest a little bit, and enjoy Melbourne."