BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova made good on her wildcard into the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, needing just 69 minutes to see off Mihaela Buzarnescu in two sets and move into the second round.
Pliskova, who was playing her first match of the grass season - and the first match since her third-round loss at Roland Garros - didn’t even face a break point during the 6-3, 6-4 victory at the Ann Jones Centre Court.
“I think it was a tough draw because she is the only lefty player from the draw, if I don't count the qualifiers, so this was tough,” Pliskova said in her post-match press conference.
“We played last in Wimbledon a quite tight match, so I knew it was not going to be easy because of the lefty serve and just the lefty game and I didn't win a round here for a while, I think, so happy that I'm through.”
Read more: 2019 WTA Grass Season: Who's playing where?
The victory extends Pliskova’s win count to 30 victories in 2019, the third-most match wins on the WTA so far.
Pliskova, a finalist here in Birmingham back in 2015, is coming into the grass swing after a stellar record so far this year: she won one of the biggest titles of her career at Rome, along with an early victory in Brisbane. She’s also reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and the final in Miami.
Against Buzarnescu in Birmingham, Pliskova needed a few games to warm up in her first grass court match of the season. Her big serve was firing from the start, flying through her service games as Buzarnescu fought to break up her rhythm. But the Romanian couldn’t find a way to pressure her opponent, and Pliskova finally earned a break at 4-2.
That lone break would prove to be decisive, even as Buzarnescu put in a mammoth effort to save three set points and hold for 5-3. But Pliskova wouldn’t be denied as she closed out the set a game later.
One break of serve would decide the second set as well as Pliskova had Buzarnescu back under pressure with a break opportunity in the first service game. She eventually earned the break at 2-1, and defended her advantage through the later stages of the set. Buzarnescu saved a match point to hold for 5-4, but Pliskova sealed the match with an ace in the next game to book her spot in the next round.
Pliskova’s booming serve was the key to her victory against Buzarnescu, winning 77% of first serves and firing 11 aces against her opponent. As a result, Buzarnescu wasn’t able to create any break opportunities, while Pliskova converted on two occasions from nine break chances.
Up next, Pliskova will face the winner between a pair of qualifiers: either Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova, or Pliskova’s own twin sister, Kristyna Pliskova. Should Kristyna win, it would be their first meeting since 2012.
“She has a different ranking than me, but I think it can be 50/50 if she wins, she has still has one more round to go.
“But we didn't play for a while so there's going to be some strange emotions and maybe nerves. I don't know what is going to happen if we play because maybe five, six years when we played the last time.
“It was supposed to happen last in Prague, it didn't happen, so I think we both were like expecting it is going to come one day so we pray for not to be in a Grand Slam first round because that would be the worst.”