TOKYO, Japan - Qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich caused the biggest shock of this year's Toray Pan Pacific Open, knocking out US Open finalist and No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova in straight sets on Thursday.
Belying her lowly ranking, World No.107 Sasnovich ran out a surprisingly comfortable 6-4, 6-2 winner to set up a quarterfinal meeting against Naomi Osaka.
The Belarusian had never previously beaten a player ranked inside the Top 30, let alone the Top 10, but with Pliskova's destructive game lacking its usual spark she grabbed her opportunity with both hands.
Punishing one particularly inviting second serve, Sasnovich carved out three early break points, converting at the first attempt when Pliskova obligingly pushed a backhand wide. While this advantage did not last, she continued to pressurize the World No.6 and got her reward when she broke again in the ninth game before confidently serving out the set.
Surprisingly, there was no let-up in the second set. If anything, the underdog proved to be even more dominant, rattling off the final four games to complete a famous upset.
"I was expecting now to be going to Wuhan for the next tournament because I know Karolina is a really good player and I didn't expect to win today," Sasnovich said. "But you know it's life and it's tennis, the ball is round!
"I have a lot of emotion. It was my first win over a Top 10 player, I'm really happy with it and looking forward to the next round."
Like Sasnovich, Linette is appearing at this stage of a WTA Premier event for the first time. However, there was no sign of nerves as she staged a thrilling final-set fightback. Trailing 5-3, 40-15, the Pole turned defense to attack to fend off the first match point, then ghosting into the net to save the second in even more impressive fashion. Fifteen minutes later, after nearly three hours on court, Linette made another foray into the net, this time on her own match point, to expertly steer away the volley.
"That was crazy! But I'm so glad that everyone stayed until the end," Linette said in her on-court interview. "I hope it was pretty entertaining. It was certainly entertaining for me!"
The next will come in the shape of former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, and Linette is expecting another battle: "I think she puts everything in - I don't know what I'm going to do, actually! Today was really tough and I know Caroline is even fitter so it will be extremely tough. I'll try my best to recover as much as I can and do my best tomorrow."
? Tennis Insight (@TennisInsight) September 22, 2016