LONDON, Great Britain - Magdalena Rybarikova brought her stellar grass court form to the All England Club and showed the world some of her best tennis to dispatch No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the third round of Wimbledon.
"It’s obviously an amazing feeling for me, and I’m so happy," Rybarikova said in her post-match press conference. "It’s tough to describe. I beat someone who is No.3 in the world right now, who she’s playing amazing tennis, on the Centre Court at Wimbledon. Nothing could be better. I’m very pleased and very happy."
Rybarikova had been off the tour for much of the last year following wrist and knee surgeries, but immediately posted some impressive results on the ITF Circuit, winning four titles - two on grass - and reached the semifinals of the Aegon Open in Nottingham.
Meanwhile, Pliskova came to the All England Club hoping to win a maiden major title and wrest the No.1 ranking from Angelique Kerber all in one fortnight, looking in dangerous form after winning her third title of 2017 at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
"She’s one of the best players right now and her results are very good. Beating her here is so good.
"I believed my game could still be very good; I was practicing well. But still, I wasn’t competing with players like Karolina. I couldn’t know how I’d play a match like today."
That level continued for much of the first two sets as the Czech powerhouse eased through the first and took a break lead in the second before Rybarikova broke back and pushed the set to 5-5, where she benefitted from a loose service game to level the match.
"I wasn’t really confident when I lost serve in the second set. She serves so amazingly, but I was still believing. When you’re on the Centre Court, you have to believe, and enjoy the match. When I broke back, I thought, ‘Focus on your serve, and maybe you can break her one more time.’ That’s what happened."
The Slovak took control from there, flummoxing Pliskova with her signature grass court variety to save a pair of early break points to break serve herself and take the lead. The No.3 seed broke straight back but wouldn't win another game as Rybarikova rolled to the upset after two hours and 17 minutes on court.
"Once I was in the third set with her, I just kept fighting. I was surprised that I wasn’t nervous; I thought I’d be shaky at the end. But I was so tired that I didn’t have time to think about how nervous I was.
"I had a few tight moments; I can’t say I was cool. There some shots where I was like, ‘Oh no!’ But that’s still normal. In the end, I think I played well. It was a good match for both of us, and the spectators."
Rybarikova played a nearly flawless match from start to finish, striking 33 winners to 26 unforced errors - hitting 12 winners in the final set alone - and converting five of six break point opportunities over the course of three sets. Pliskova kept her stats fairly clean with 28 winners and errors each, but only mustered six winners in the decider, and only converted three of 11 break points.
"I think on grass she has a really tricky game," Pliskova said after the match. "I played one bad game overall in second set, at 5-6. Otherwise I don't think I did something wrong.
"She just played a little bit better today. Still, I know I can play better than I was playing today. Even worse, I can play. It was just a tough match."
Up next for the dangerous floater is Ukrainian star Lesia Tsurenko, who completed her box set of Grand Slam third round appearances with a three-set win over Viktorija Golubic earlier in the day.
"Grass is my favorite surface," Rybarikova said. "When you’ve beaten the World No.2, people will expect you to win the tournament, but it’s not like that at all. My next match is against Lesia Tsurenko; she’s a really good player. She’ll be the favorite; I practiced against her here. She’s playing very well now.
"I just want to enjoy this moment, and not think about how people expect me to win the next match. I’ll have to go step by step. It’ll be a good boost for my confidence, but I want to stay down to earth. It was an amazing day, but tomorrow might be different."
Tsurenko and Rybarikova practiced together before the start of the tournament, and will compete for a spot in the second week on Saturday.
"There were a lot of questions because I won so many matches on grass. I won two titles and made the semifinals in Nottingham. People were expecting me to do so well here, but first of all, I won two ITF titles without playing Top 30 players. I played Konta, a Top 10 player, and lost to her. I just thought Wimbledon would be totally different. I’m not saying ITFs are easy; there were a lot of Top 100 players there. I would have been very happy to win a round and then see from there.
"I achieved my goal to get back to the Top 100 before Wimbledon. I didn’t expect to already be in the US Open main draw. I didn’t have to play qualies here either, and at the French Open I was last in. I didn’t get lucky with my health, but I got lucky in this way!"
Visit www.wimbledon.com to watch live streaming via ‘The Wimbledon Channel’.