World number three Karolina Pliskova has a chance to end the French Open as the world number one. The Czech will have to reach the final to usurp Angelique Kerber as the best player in the world, and will most likely have to beat the other contender in the running, Simona Halep in a potential semifinal meeting. Nevertheless, Pliskova has a long way ahead before she can think about that, as she has reached uncharted waters at the French Open. The lanky Czech has reached the third round of the French Open for the first time in her career, after defeating world number 86, Ekaterina Alexandrova in three sets.
The second seed will play Carina Witthoeft in the third round of the French Open as Pliskova aims to reach the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in Paris, and third in succession at a Slam.
Pliskova wastes no time in the opening set
Last year's US Open runner-up opened proceedings in the final match on Court Philippe Chatrier. The Czech held serve easily, and she broke Alexandrova's serve in the next service game with a forehand winner, with a little bit of help from the net cord to lead 2-0. The Czech consolidated the break with some solid serving, leading 3-0 at the first sit down of the match.
The Russian got on the board with ease in the next service game, but the dominance of Pliskova's serving extended her lead to 4-1. Nonetheless, a few unforced errors spewing from the second seed's racquet allowed the world number 86 to win the second game of the match, trailing 4-2. However, despite Pliskova's frailties being her movement on clay, she moved tremendously well in her next service game and she remained untroubled on serve to lead 5-2.
Alexandrova had the enviable task of serving to stay in the opening set but she quickly found herself at 0-40 down. Pliskova converted her first set point with a crushing backhand return winner down the line to take the opening set in a mere 22 minutes.
Alexandrova fights back to win the second set
The Czech continued to win points by serving to serve out wide, to take time away from Alexandrova. The Russian got on the scoreboard levelling the second set at 1-1. The second set continued to ebb and flow with both players remaining untroubled on their service games at two games apiece.
However, for the first time in the match, Pliskova was under pressure on serve despite taking a commanding 30-0 lead. A few unforced errors sprung from Pliskova's racquet and the 22-year-old took advantage of the world number three's poor spell in the match. The world number 86 broke the Czech who was suffering from a lapse of concentration to lead 3-2 with a tame unforced error.
Alexandrova consolidated the break, and it in the next service game, a couple of aces from Pliskova and a service winner, kept the Czech within touching distance. Pliskova was looking to retrieve the break back racing out to a 0-30 lead on the young Russian's serve. However, a few unforced errors from Pliskova levelled the game at 30-30. A breakpoint quickly followed for Pliskova but she was unable to convert it with a backhand unforced error. The Russian staved off another break point and she held serve with an ace down the T to lead 5-3.
Last year's US Open runner-up continued to feel the pressure on her serve with Alexandrova creating her first set point with a sweet return winner on Pliskova's serve. Moreover, she saved it with a strong first serve out wide. Pliskova eventually held serve but trailed 5-4. and Alexandrova was in the ascendency to serve for the second set.
The second seed was rushing her shots and she committed more unforced errors with her forehand breaking down. Her forehand sailed long and out of nowhere, the 22-year-old sent the match to a final set on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Pliskova fends off Alexandrova to reach her career-best performance in Paris
For the third successive time in the match, Pliskova served first and she held serve easily. She stamped down her authority in the Russian's service game by amping up the pressure. The 22-year-old's forehand and backhands went wide. The Czech created a break point, and she converted it beautifully at the first time of asking whilst sliding on the clay with great defence, producing a scintillating forehand winner down the line to break serve and lead 2-0.
Moreover, the 22-year-old didn't give up and she produced some forehand winners to pressurise Pliskova on serve. Moreover, the Czech found an ace at 15-30, however, Alexandrova returned well with Pliskova crouching low trying to retrieve the ball. Pliskova saved one break point but was unable to save a second with a backhand sailing long lifelessly. Alexandrova didn't face any break points in her next service game but she fended off Pliskova's resistance, who was looking to regain the break to level the final set at 2-2.
The second seed showed her speed when she was chasing down a poor drop shot attempt from Alexandrova with a backhand winner down the line. She held serve with a strong first serve out wide and a scintillating forehand winner to lead 3-2. The inevitable occurred in the next game with more forehand unforced errors coming from the 22-year-old's racquet, with Pliskova breaking.
The Czech's serve improved immensely in the match and she consolidated the break to lead 5-2. Alexandrova raced out to a 30-0 lead in her final service game of the match but Pliskova produced two backhand winners in succession to apply more pressure. Once more, her forehand sailed long with Pliskova gaining her first match point. However, she failed to convert it and Alexandrova held serve but trailed 5-3.
Pliskova was relieved to get over the line in her final service game with a unreturnable serve down the middle to come out victorious in one hour and 41 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier. The Czech will now be competing in the third round of the French Open for the first time in her career.
By the numbers
Both players served well in this encounter with Alexandrova sending down six aces to Pliskova's five. However, Alexandrova committed five double faults to Pliskova's one. The second seed got 59 percent of her first serves in, winning 75 percent of the points on her first serve, whereas, Alexandrova got 53 percent of the points on her first serve in and she won 69 percent of the points on it. Pliskova produced 20 winners, in contrast to Alexandrova's 17, whilst the Russian committed 30 unforced errors and Pliskova committed 24.