PARIS, France - Down 4-5 in the first set against Zheng Saisai, No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova dropped just two more games for a 7-5, 6-2 victory over the Chinesewoman to reach the second round of Roland Garros.
“There are always some nerves and some kind of pressure,” she said after the match. “Especially on Grand Slam it's a little bit harder than at the normal tournaments. I'm just trying somehow to not put it into my head.
“I think it's usual that everyone is nervous, not only seeded players and not only the ones who have the expectation pretty high. But once I'm on the court, it's fine. Even if you don't feel nervous, that doesn’t mean that the game is gonna be great, but I was feeling pretty okay.”
Pliskova could wrest the No.1 ranking from Angelique Kerber should she reach the final in Paris, but that looked to be a tall order for the 2016 US Open runner-up, who had won just two main draw matches at this event coming into Monday's encounter with Zheng.
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Zheng had earned three Top 10 wins last season and earned an impressive upset over Elina Svitolina at the Mutua Madrid Open; down an early break against Pliskova, she got on a roll to get two breaks of her own and put herself a game from the opening set.
“I was up in the first set 2-0 and I have many chances and I lost my serve, unfortunately, from 40-0. But I felt like I was a little bit better even in the first set, that anything could happen. I think she played few good shots there and I had some mistakes, so that's how it is.”
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The Czech powerhouse clicked into gear from there, winning five straight games to turn the tables on the World No.67, and while Zheng leveled the set at two games apiece, Pliskova swept the final three games to book her spot in the second round after 80 minutes on court.
“The second set was definitely better from my side, more aggressive, better movement, as well. Better serve. I was able to make two or three breaks, which is always good if you can break her. I felt like I was receiving pretty aggressively in the second set.
“It's always tight a little bit, the first round. And especially the first set she was playing I think quite okay clay game with me. That's why it was a little bit more tough. She was putting those high spins into my backhand, which is the biggest problem for me, I would say.”
Making 60% of her first serves, the World No.3 won nearly 70% of those points and converted six of eight break point opportunities.
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) May 29, 2017
Up next for Pliskova is big-hitting Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, who was victorious in her French Open debut over Katerina Siniakova, outlasting the Czech youngster in three sets.