LONDON, Great Britain - No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova won a seventh straight match on Wednesday as the Nature Valley International champion knocked out 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig, 6-0, 6-4 to reach the third round of Wimbledon for the second time.
The former World No.1 is undefeated since falling to twin sister Kristyna at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, and has only looked stronger at the All England Club, winning in exactly 60 minutes on Centre Court.
"I think was much better than the first round for sure today," she said in her post-match press conference. "Little bit trouble in the end, but I think that's normal. She also has some chance to play good tennis, so she played.
"I think was so far the best here. I felt the best here in Wimbledon today. The court was super nice, a little bit faster than the outside courts. So it was good."
Pliskova endured a late hiccup in her opening clash against Zhu Lin, but made no mistakes to start against Puig, who had pushed her to three sets in their last meeting at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open.
The three-time WTA Ace Leader dropped two points on serve in the opening set, striking 10 winners to just one unforced error as Puig thrice lost her serve to find herself on the losing end of the first seven games.
Pliskova continued her momentum in the second set, shaking off a service hold from the Puerto Rican star to engineer a fourth break of serve as she took a 4-1 lead.
In the face of such in-form opposition, Puig - who began 2019 by partnering with Sloane Stephens' former coach Kamau Murray - did what she could to treate the crowd to a tense ending, breaking Pliskova for the first time as the Czech powerhouse served for the match and held points for 5-5 in the very next game.
"She improved in the second set, playing more first serves and just went for it, so I'm just pleased I didn't have to play any longer!"
Pliskova was undeterred, saving all three game points and securing victory on her first match point as Puig sent one last backhand wide.
In all, she struck nine aces and 23 winners to just six unforced errors, and while Puig enjoyed a late surge, she'll be left to rue 21 unforced errors to seven winners.
"I feel like I'm improving with every day on grass, especially with the title in Eastbourne. It helped me feel more confident and more used to the surface. I'm just happy to be in the third round, and hopefully I can go one more step.
"The deeper you go, the better the players you face, so it's not going to be easy, for sure. We'll see who is next."
Standing between the No.3 seed and a return to the second week is a rematch of a Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships clash with No.28 seed Hsieh Su-wei, who defeated Kirsten Flipkens - her second straight former Wimbledon semifinalist of the tournament after opening against Jelena Ostapenko - earlier in the day.
"For sure tricky," she said of Hsieh. "We played couple times. Both matches were strange. But it was on hardcourts. Let's see what it's going to be on grass.
"I don't think it's going to be any difference in her game. Maybe she's going to use her slices and this kind of stuff more because on grass it's quite effective, but let's see. I mean, she beat good players here last year, too. I remember she beat Simona. She can be tough. I think if I play fast enough, she's not going to have enough time to do these things as she's doing always. On serve I should be better, but of course, it's a tricky opponent.
Pliskova led Hsieh 5-1 in the final set of their match in Dubai before the crafty Chinese Taipei veteran roared back to win.
"I feel like it's still a lot about me. I don't want to be really thinking too much about what she's doing because I know if I play fast, it happened in the past, I beat her not really easy, but in Dubai I should have won the tournament in Dubai, the match.
"I feel like if I play good tennis, if I serve well, she still cannot do much. But, of course, if you give her the chance and the time, the angles, then she can be dangerous because she has good hands. She was playing lot of doubles in her life. She can play at the net. She just tries to play the shots which nobody likes. I don't want to be that much on her side. I just want to stay on my side of the court."