NEW YORK, NY, USA - Former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova recovered from deficits in both sets of her third round clash with talented American teenager Sofia Kenin, ultimately emerging victorious, 6-4, 7-6(2), to reach the fourth round of the US Open for a third straight year.
Pliskova has played some of her most consistent tennis in Flushing Meadows, finishing runner-up to Anglique Kerber back in 2016 and reaching the last eight a year ago. Playing the second night match on Louis Armstrong Stadium, the perennial WTA Ace Leader continued in that vein of form with a one hour and 55 win under the lights.
“It was two breaks in each set but I didn't really feel like it's two breaks because I was feeling like I'm serving pretty well today,” Pliskova assessed in her post-match press conference. “Although I lost two of my service games, I was always up in those games - I just did some bad mistakes.
“She was really going for her shots, playing really well. I was too passive. That's why it looked like this. I could play for sure more aggressive. But it doesn't matter now. I'm just happy that I won and I'm not still on the court.”
Kenin played Pliskova in the first round of this very tournament two years ago, and shocked many by reaching the Round of 32 last year. She proved it was no fluke by repeating the feat with a win over Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic finalist Maria Sakkari along the way. Mixing up the pace and keeping the ball deep, the American saved early break points and took a 4-2 lead to start the match.
Pliskova, who has recently hired 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez in addition to coaching consultant and former WTA Doubles No.1 Rennae Stubbs, played some impressive defense when she needed to, relying on her typically solid serve to get her out of trouble and win the final four games of the set.
Kenin proved undaunted despite losing her momentum and another long game to start the second set, immediately breaking serve in the third game and taking an identical lead to the first. Pliskova saved a pair of break points that would have put Kenin a game from a decider, and leveled the set as the two headed towards a tie-break.
Once in the sudden death, Pliskova took the early lead with big hitting off both sides. A fearsome backhand return took her to 5-1 at the change of ends. Kenin kept fighting but couldn't handle the former No.1's firepower and Pliskova converted her second match point.
In all, the No.8 seed pulled off 31 winners and 34 unforced errors - including 11 aces - and saved 11 of 13 break points over two sets. Kenin acquitted herself well throughout, striking 23 winners of her own, but was undone by seven costly double faults.
Up next for Pliskova is Aussie No.1 Ashleigh Barty, who ended Czech qualifier Karolina Muchova's fairytale run, winning in straight sets on Court 5.
“We played last year in Asia, a very close match… I lost for sure,” Pliskova said. “She's tough opponent because she has so many options what to play: using a lot of slice, coming to the net very often, she can serve pretty well. There's a lot of things which she can do, she can change.
“It’s going to be tough, completely different than today. I still have to play my game. My serve improved from my first match - hopefully it can stay. If I serve well, I think there's always a chance to beat those girls.”