Newly-minted world number one Karolina Pliskova contested her first match as the tour’s top player on Wednesday at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, overcoming Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-3 in a back-and-forth match. The new world number one was far from her best, struggling with her serve, but managed to ride her consistent groundstrokes to a straight sets victory.
Wonky start to reign
Pliskova showed no signs of nerves as she started her reign as the world number one with a hold before reaching break point in her first return game. Pavlyuchenkova would double fault on break point to hand the early lead to the world number one. However, the Russian began finding her targets in the third game, clipping several lines on her way to a 0-40 lead. This time it was Pliskova’s turn to double fault the break away, putting the match back on serve immediately. But the Czech quickly showed why she’s number one in the world, breaking right back in the following game.
The top seed was far from her best on serve in this match and showed it early, blowing a 40-0 lead as she tried to consolidate the break after failing the first time. But after losing four straight points to trail 40-AD, her serve returned at the perfect moment as the Czech hit three unreturnable serves in a row to consolidate the break. Unlike her serve, Pliskova’s groundstrokes were on point, as she broke again to take a 5-1 lead.
Pavlyuchenkova was not going to go away quietly, as she upped her aggression for one last stand late in the set. As Pliskova looked to serve out the set, the Russian struck a series of brilliant shots, including a clean return winner on break point to take one of the breaks back. Pavlyuchenkova would hold to force the Czech to serve for the set a second time, but this time, she would hold to love to wrap up the opening set.
Pliskova wins returner’s battle
Looking to silence all doubters, the Czech got off to a flying start in the second set, breaking in the opening game. She very nearly blew the early lead again when she fell behind 15-40 in her first return game, but managed to rally in an epic second game to hold serve. She made Pavlyuchenkova pay for the missed opportunity, breaking again in the third game for a double break lead. But the inconsistency began to creep back into the world number one’s game. She fell behind 0-40 in the following game and was broken at the second time of asking.
After the pair exchanged holds, Pliskova would recover the break in the seventh game and looked to serve out the match at 5-2. Just like the opening set, she would fail. This time, it was her own undoing as some nervous errors gave Pavlyuchenkova an opening and was broken to love. However, Pliskova was not about to let her opponent back into the match, running the Russian ragged on her own serve to bring up match point in the following game. Pavlyuchenkova would miss a forehand to hand Pliskova her first victory as the world number one.
By the numbers
Pliskova’s serve left a lot to be desired in this match, as she only put 42 percent of her first serves in play and only won 33 percent of her second serve points. Lucky for her, Pavlyuchenkova struggled even more, also only winning 33 percent of her second serve points but, unlike Pliskova, who was above 50 percent of first serve points won, the Russian only won a mere 36 percent of her first serve points. Both women faced nine break points in the match; Pliskova saved five of them while Pavlyuchenkova only managed to save two.
The world number one awaits the winner between Naomi Osaka and Anastasija Sevastova in the third round.