MIAMI, FL, USA -- No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic survived a stern challenge from Yulia Putintseva, edging the player from Kazakhstan 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, to reach the Miami Open quarterfinals for the third straight year, and the fourth time in the last five editions.
"Of course I’m doing some mistakes, I think I can do some good shots also, so I think it’s a little bit mix of both," Pliskova told the press, after her win. "Playing sometimes good, maybe sometimes too many mistakes in a row, but I think it’s always important to find a way, somehow, how to win. Last two, three weeks I’m still not playing perfect, but I’m fighting and getting the victories, which is important."
Pliskova had beaten Putintseva in their three previous meetings, including a lengthy match in the first round of Brisbane earlier this season. The Czech improved her head-to-head against the Kazakh to 4-0, but not without a test from World No.44 Putintseva, with Pliskova eventually prevailing after two hours and 10 minutes of play.
"I think [Putintseva] played very well," Pliskova continued. "Except for the last point, maybe, she didn’t give me anything for free."
World No.7 Pliskova crushed 43 winners in the match, including seven aces, but she also had 48 unforced errors. Meanwhile, Putintseva had 18 winners and 23 unforced errors during the encounter. Putintseva even won two-thirds of points on Pliskova's second serve, but she let 13 of her 19 break points go begging in the clash, which cost her a potential upset.
Pliskova will face her compatriot, 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova, in the final eight. Vondrousova reached her second straight Premier Mandatory quarterfinal after ousting Tatjana Maria on Monday night. It will be the first meeting between the Czechs.
"I played with [Vondrousova] in Fed Cup, we never played each other in a tournament," said Pliskova. "I think she’s playing amazing right now. It’s going to be similar -- actually, I’m not having any opponents which are doing mistakes, so everything I have to work for. It’s going to be the same."
In the first game of the match, Pliskova used her signature serve to pull back from 0-40 to game point. But back-to-back double faults by the Czech gave Putintseva a fourth chance to open the tilt with a break, which the Kazakh took after a long forehand by Pliskova.
That started a run of games for Putintseva, as her footspeed, dropshots, and expected grit combined with some noteworthy serves at opportune times. Pliskova double faulted away her next service game to give Putintseva a 3-0 lead, and a forehand chip winner pulled the Kazakh through a close service game for a 4-0 lead.
After Putintseva fired a passing shot winner to hold for 5-0, Pliskova finally got on the board, breaking Putintseva at love and then consolidating to pull to 5-2. But Putintseva successfully closed out the set in the next game, as Pliskova finished the opening frame with 18 unforced errors, well over Putintseva’s five miscues.
Putintseva continued to take advantage of an error-prone Pliskova at the start of the second set, garnering the first break to lead 2-1. But Pliskova turned around the set at that juncture, cruising to a love break to get back level at 2-2, then breaking Putintseva again two games later, with a forehand winner off of a drop shot, to lead 4-2.
Determined Putintseva grinded through the next game, getting back on serve at 4-3 on her fourth break point, but huge returns from Pliskova allowed her to take Putintseva’s serve once again in the subsequent game and lead 5-3.
Serving for the set, Pliskova staved off a break point with a powerful forehand, and then closed out the game with one of her vaunted aces. The Czech was far more prolific with her winners in the second set, with 21, to only 14 unforced errors. Putintseva could muster only three winners in that set.
Pliskova started the decider with momentum, breaking Putintseva in the opening game, but the fiery Kazakh got back level at 3-3 following a cheeky dropshot winner on break point. After a stunning forehand passing winner allowed the unseeded player to hold for 4-3, the demonstrative Putintseva was raring to claim the upset.
But Pliskova kept fighting, using her strong serves to pull her through a close game and hold for 4-4. Putintseva used another brilliant passing shot, this time from the backhand wing, to hold for 5-4, but Pliskova was untested on serve in the following game and held with ease for 5-5.
Finally, the stirring groundstrokes which Pliskova can deploy at a moment’s notice powered her to a break for a 6-5 lead. Serving for the match, Pliskova faced a break point, but the Czech cracked open a rally with a shot square on the baseline which Putintseva fired back long. Two super serves later, the match narrowly went to Pliskova.