LONDON, Great Britain - Alison Riske proved her grass court prowess in stunning fashion on Thursday, sliding past an in-form No.12 seed Kristina Mladenovic, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the third round at the Wimbledon Championships.
Mladenovic came to the All England Club in the midst of a career-best season, springboarding her maiden WTA title win in St. Petersburg into back-to-back finals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and the Mutua Madrid Open, dethroning defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza en route to the last eight at Roland Garros.
"I think it was overall a good match," Mladenovic said. "I mean, it was a fight. 6-4 in the third. With the conditions that were proposed to us, I think we both played quite a quality game, knowing the difficulties."
Though she'd never lost to Riske in four previous meetings, the American veteran has long been at home on grass, making her career breakthrough at the Aegon Classic back in 2011 and reaching the Aegon Open final just last year in Nottingham.
Overcoming tricky conditions on Court 18, Mladenovic nonetheless survived a few early slips to take the opening set before Riske began to take control.
"I think you can all pretty much see. First of all, the color of the court, the fact that there's no more grass, the fact that the baseline where we are running, it's very slippery. There's no grass. I don't know how to describe it. It's not even clay.
"So it makes it tough to put your strong footwork. You kind of have to run light and be careful, I don't know, not to push or press too much, too hard, which is strange to play on.
"I'm just honestly very happy and blessed that I didn't injure myself that much."
Trailing by a set and a break, the unseeded American dropped just two more games to level the match and earned a crucial love service break in the seventh game to ultimately seal the upset after two hours and nine minutes on court.
In a high quality match, Mladenovic struck 47 winners to to 34 unforced errors; while Riske only hit 22 winners to 20 errors, she was more efficient on the most important points, converting both break points she engineered in the final set to book a third round clash with fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe.
Riske is undefeated against the Australian Open semifinalist, winning their only two previous matches, and will be aiming to reach the second week of Wimbledon for the first time in her career.