NEW YORK, NY, USA -- No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic eased into the third round of the US Open on Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Georgian qualifier Mariam Bolkvadze.
2016 US Open runner-up Pliskova won under the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium while the rain fell outside in Flushing Meadows, but the indoor conditions were hardly a hindrance to the big-serving Czech as she notched her win after 65 minutes of play.
"My nerves were a little less than the first [round]," Pliskova said in her post-match press conference. "I thought I was enjoying more, just playing better. Always helps when you get the first match done, then doesn't matter what is in the next round. You always feel better, at least I do. I thought everything was just somehow better."
Former World No.1 Pliskova blasted nine aces during the match, befitting a player who has been one of the top servers on the WTA for the past six years. Pliskova won 25 of her 28 first-service points during the match and had 19 errors to just 16 unforced errors, an excellent ratio for her high-voltage game.
"Sometimes I don't want to miss anything and everything," said Pliskova. "Even when I make some good balls or good winners, I just still find something [that] was maybe not that clean, the shot, or something. But with years and with some experience, it makes me feel better about it and just let some things go, which I was not able to do before. So even if the shot is not perfect or if it's perfect, it's the past now."
Bolkvadze, ranked World No.202, had never played a main-draw match at Grand Slam or WTA level before this event, but she maneuvered her way through qualifying to achieve her tour-level debut, and then beat Bernarda Pera in the opening round for her first-ever win over a Top 100 player. The Georgian was less successful against Pliskova, with 11 winners to 27 unforced errors, including six double faults.
"I think she did quite well in the second set," Pliskova said of Bolkvadze. "I don't know how old is she actually, so she has some time to get better. Of course this helps always, this kind of experience to play on these courts."
Pliskova started off the match holding her serve with back-to-back aces, and Bolkvadze countered with a routine hold of her own as she powered through points with her left-handed forehand. The Czech, however, took control of the first set from there, and started her roll with a break for 3-1 after Bolkvadze missed a forehand into the net on break point.
The No.3 seed was looking to crack big service returns in the set and Bolkvadze was pressured into three double faults at 4-1, queuing up another break point for Pliskova. There, the Czech found her target on a return to force an error and go up 5-1, and she closed out the set in the next game, ending the opening frame with two consecutive aces.
Another handful of double faults came off the racquet of Bolkvadze as she dropped serve in the second set to give Pliskova a 2-1 lead. The Georgian, though, would strike back right away, breaking Pliskova for the first time in the match to level the set at 2-2.
A protracted game followed as Bolkvadze used excellent defense and found some stirring shots down the line to fend off three break points. However, she was undone again by a double fault, which gave Pliskova her fourth break point of the game. The Czech dutifully took advantage of that opportunity, blasting a backhand winner to break and lead 3-2.
Bolkvadze held serve for the rest of the match, saving a match point with a solid serve at 5-3, but the qualifier did not get another look in any of Pliskova’s service games, as the Czech’s power game won the day. Pliskova claimed a second match point on her serve at 5-4, and one final thunderous serve pulled the former World No.1 into the third round.
World No.3 Pliskova will take on either Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur or Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus in the third round.
"I played Sasnovich I think once or twice," said Pliskova. "Jabeur, I'm not sure if I played, but I know quite a lot because they are similar age as me. I remember a little bit from juniors, and [twin sister] Kristyna played with them. So somehow I just feel like I know them a little more than I did those two opponents which I had right now. That kind of helps sometimes. At least you have some feeling about them and about the game."