ay six at the French Open began with a shocking upset as 31st seed Petra Martic downed second seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-3 on Court Philippe Chatrier. The Croat picked up her tour-leading 14th match win of the season on clay, which included her first career title in Istanbul and a semifinal showing on the green clay in Charleston.
Pliskova lost to Martic for the fourth time in five career meetings while missing out on a chance to regain the number one ranking from Naomi Osaka had she reached the final. The world number 31 broke the Rome champion's serve five times in the one hour, 26 minute contest to set up a last 16 encounter with Kaia Kanepi.
Martic plays brilliant all-around match to stun Pliskova
The Croat was keeping pace with the former world number one with a varied arsenal as well as holding onto her serve well, pushed to deuce just once, in the second game. She was unable to make any inroads on the Pliskova serve, winning just four points in the Czech's first three service games.
Finally, in the seventh game, the Istanbul champion took the first opportunity presented to her, breaking Pliskova for a 4-3 lead after being down 40-0 in the game, the Czech dumping a forehand into the net on break point. Despite a pair of double faults, Martic held to move within a game of the set and summarily took her second chance in the former world number one's service game to claim the set.
The momentum seemingly carried over to the second set as Martic won eight of the first ten points to hold a 2-0 edge. Undaunted, Pliskova finally breached the Croat's serve twice to go from a break down to a break up at 3-2, the second break coming on a backhand long. Her serve not working the way it usually does, the 2017 Roland Garros semifinalist was broken to 15.
The remaining games were long, Pliskova getting broken after a 12-point eighth game, giving Martic the opportunity to serve out the upset at 5-3. Saving three break points, the Croat finally arrived at match point on the tenth point and fired an ace to close out the biggest win of her career.
Martic feels "special relationship" with Roland Garros
Following her enormous upset, Martic said "the key was to focus on my game and try to dictate instead of letting her dictate, which is her biggest strength. I had to kind of try to take it away from her, and at times it was difficult. Especially when she broke me and she got a few winners, which she's known for. I'm just happy that I managed to hold my nerves and to finish it off.
"I don't know if Roland Garros has a special relationship with me, but I have it with Roland Garros. I really love this tournament. I love this surface. I really feel great here, and I hope for the first time i'll be able to make the step further.
"I go from one match to another, and since I came back, I stopped looking at the draw. I just know my next opponent and that's it. I think that's the only way you can kind of keep your focus and keep your calm and perform.
Pliskova compliments Croat in post-match thoughts
The Czech conceded that "of course 6-3, 6-3 is not something I was hoping for today. I think she played well. For sure, I think I could do better. Actually, I think the score was closer than it really was in the end, so I think I had some chances couple games, I should definitely not lose couple of serves in the first set when I was up in the games.
"She just made it difficult today for me. We played in Miami, so I think hard court is a little bit different to play her on hard court. I think it's better for me. Obviously, she's playing well this year, especially on clay. She won a title, so she's playing confident. She was serving well. She just sometimes went for her shots and then she was patient."