US Open: Karolina Pliskova battles past qualifier Nicole Gibbs

World number one Karolina Pliskova survived a huge scare on Thursday afternoon, coming from a set down to beat American qualifier Nicole Gibbs in the second round at the US Open.

Pliskova, the finalist in New York last year, lost in the second round of Wimbledon and it seemed early on that she could fall at the same stage this year, with Gibbs proving far too strong for the Czech in the opening set, though Pliskova recovered and eventually recorded a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in an hour and 46 minutes on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Pliskova was made to work hard but eventually pulled through (Getty/Matthew Stockman)
Pliskova was made to work hard but eventually pulled through (Getty/Matthew Stockman)

It was undoubtedly a competitive match throughout, with Gibbs in the end hitting four more winner and one less error than Pliskova, who hit 29 of each, though the world number one’s experience and level eventually pulled her through. She will face Risa Ozaki or 27th seed Shuai Zhang in the third round.

Pliskova pulls through tough challenge from Gibbs

Pliskova was the huge favorite for this encounter, having double bageled Gibbs the last time they played and with the American struggling with injury earlier this season, though she was made to work harder than expected to progress to the next round.

Gibbs, perhaps buoyed by playing in front of her home crowd, got off to a quick start, breaking the Czech in her second service game. With last year’s finalist struggling in the opening stages, the qualifier was able to bully Pliskova around the court, and she broke for a second time to race to a 5-1 lead. The top seed was able hold for just the second time, though Gibbs was nerveless as she served out the opening set.

Gibbs impressed but was eventually overpowered?
Gibbs impressed but was eventually overpowered (Getty/Matthew Stockman)

It was clear that Pliskova would have to raise her level to pull through this match, and she began to do that in the second set. Gibbs continued to play well, though Pliskova was striking the ball much more cleanly than she had in the first set, and that began to show as the American found things a little more difficult. The world number one had the advantage of serving first and made the most of it, breaking the American just once as she won the final three games to send the match to a decider.

Despite having dropped the second set, Gibbs was still very much in this match, and had an opportunity early in the decider, missing a break point when leading 2-1. That would, unfortunately for the American, prove crucial, as she began making more errors and was eventually broken by Pliskova later in the set. Now playing near her best, the Czech consolidated her break to go just a game away from victory, and though Gibbs forced her to serve it out she showed no nerves, closing out a hard fought victory with a love hold.