PARIS, France - No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova broke new ground on the terre battue as the Czech powerhouse survived Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to reach her first French Open third round.
"I was struggling here every year, even this year, but with a better ending," she said after the match. "I'm still not really happy with the way I was playing. I would say it was a little bit better than first round, but the opponent was different so she was playing much faster.
"Sometimes I didn't have just time to do anything and to be aggressive as I would like to be."
Pliskova came to Paris having won just two main draw matches in five previous appearances at Roland Garros, reaching the second round in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015.
Still, expectations are high on the 2016 US Open runner-up, who reached the quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia two weeks ago on what the Czech admits is her least favorite surface.
Across the net was Alexandrova, who may lack big-match experience but has tended to perform her best given the opportunity; the Russian had won all three previous meetings with Top 25 players, including a straight-set victory over Ana Ivanovic at the former No.1's last Wimbledon.
Pliskova nonetheless converted the only two break points of the opening set but had to withstand a barrage from the Russian youngster in the second set. Alexandrova struck seven winners and three aces to level the match behind just one break of serve.
"I think the serve is quite okay, I would say. I think the percentage of the first serve is pretty high. I have a lot of free points. Not many aces but free points, which is the same."
The No.2 seed could become World No.1 should she reach the final, and showed some of that grit in the deciding set, hitting eight winners to eight unforced errors and dropped just four points behind her first serve to clinch victory in one hour and 41 minutes.
"I would say the serve saved me in the third set. I was serving pretty well. The second set was only one break, so anything was possible.
"I felt like I could have been more aggressive. I was playing too short, so that's why she was able to push me a little bit more. I think I was running more than her, which I don't want it to be this way."
Up next for Pliskova is surging German star Carina Witthoeft; the 22-year-old completed her box set of third round appearances at Grand Slams with a two-set win over Pauline Parmentier earlier in the day.
"Last year I was coming here as a favorite, top seeded here, not as like second seeded but everyone is still expecting me to win something, and I didn't make it. I lost in the first round. So even making it through the first round meant a lot to me. What I did today, it's kind of special still. I have a chance.
"Even though I don't think I am playing the best tennis I've played all year, somehow I still won two matches, which is very important. I know I can play better if I go deep in the tournament."