BRISBANE, Australia - 2017 Brisbane International champion Karolina Pliskova battled back from the brink against fiery Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, edging through, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round.
"It's always tough to play a first match after one and a half months of preparation and some holidays, so I'm just happy that I'm through," she said during her on-court interview.
Pliskova outlasted Putintseva in the first round of this tournament en route to the title two years ago, but Monday morning's meeting was much more intense as the 2016 US Open finalist was made to rally from a set and break deficit, turning the tide after two hours and 17 minutes on court.
"I feel like I played good in practice, but still, a match is something different. I'm happy that I managed to fight in the second set after being a break down. It was a very important match for me."
Playing her first match of the 2019 season, Pliskova twice fell behind an early break before Putintseva served out the opening set. The 23-year-old was looking for her first win against Pliskova since 2012, and appeared on course for it when she edged ahead 3-1 in the second.
Pliskova called down coach Rennae Stubbs early in the second set, a move which seemed to turn the tide as the Czech powerhouse won five straight games to level the match and edge ahead by a break in the decider.
"They both want me to improve my legs," she said of Stubbs' coaching input, which comes in tandem with 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez. "I don't understand, because I feel like they're great! It's about the movement, which could be better, and off-court fitness.
"I could never forget my holidays. I had about three weeks off after Singapore. The season was long, so I had time to rest, and then a pre-season."
Though Putintseva saved multiple break points to avoid a double break gap, Pliskova remained in front for the duration of the third, serving out the win on her second match point.
She told reporters afterwards that she had not suffered from nerves.
"I didn't really know what to expect, what's going to come, because I know I practiced a lot. But still, tournaments with people, it's different, you know," she said." It's ball kids with lines and umpires so everything feels different. But I didn't feel nervous. I know it was for sure not the best tennis, but I enjoyed it. I like to compete, so two months without a match was too much for me."
Awaiting Pliskova in the second round is either qualifier Marie Bouzkova or 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, who took a wildcard into Brisbane.