Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova survived her biggest test of the Australian Open so far on the eighth day of action, with the former world number one battling past fellow Czech and 20th seed Barbora Strycova in a match that finished at 01:34 local time.
The first set was incredibly competitive and very entertaining, with both women playing well, though it was Strycova who was able to edge it and put herself in control. Despite dropping the first set, Pliskova, as calmly as ever, started to apply the pressure and eventually took control, sealing a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 victory in two hours and 41 minutes.
Pliskova battles from a set down to set up Halep clash
It was never going to be an easy match for Pliskova, with Strycova having looked very impressive in her opening three matches in Melbourne, and the former US Open finalist certainly had to work hard and late into the night to stay alive in the tournament.
The opening stages of the first set were very tight, with the sixth seed saving two break points in her first service game and Strycova saving four break points a couple of games later, though after that there were no real opportunities for either. Both were looking very good on serve, with there being some entertaining rallies throughout the set, and there was no real favorite heading into the first set tiebreak. There, however, it was the 20th seed who took control, taking an early minibreak and eventually converting a second set point to go a set away from a second major quarterfinal.
Pliskova was undoubtedly in a little bit of trouble, though broke her opponent in the opening game of the second set and began to take control of the encounter, breaking Strycova for a second time to hold a commanding 4-1 lead in the second set. There may have been a few nerves for the sixth seed, widely seen as a title contender, as she handed one of the breaks back to her compatriot, though Strycova’s level had dropped from the first set and serving to stay in the set she crumbled slightly, with the sixth seed converting her first set point to send the match to a decider.
After dropping the second set, the 20th seed started the decider in fine style, breaking in the opening game, though Pliskova broke straight back and eventually eased to a 4-1 lead as she took full control of the encounter. Strycova was undoubtedly fighting hard but was struggling to match her opponent’s clinical tennis, and after holding for 4-2, could do very little; Pliskova comfortably held to go a game away from victory, and then converted a third match point on Strycova’s serve to progress.
Despite having a tougher time of things in her past couple of matches, Pliskova has looked very good so far in Melbourne and will be confident heading into her last eight match against world number one Simona Halep. The Czech trails in the head-to-head though will fancy her chances if she maintains this level.