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Confident Pliskova targets maiden slam title

By Simon cambers

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - For Karolina Pliskova, the hardest work is done.

The fifth-seeded Czech, runner-up at the U.S. Open last year, stormed into the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday with a 6-2 6-0 thrashing of Sara Sorribes Torm of Spain.

Until she reached the final in New York, a run that included victory over Serena Williams in the semi-finals, Pliskova had never gone beyond the third round at any of the grand slams.

But success breeds confidence and with the first hurdle negotiated, the 24-year-old says she will be able to settle down and focus on her title bid.

"If I pass the first round then I feel I can be dangerous for all the players and I can play better and better as it goes on," Pliskova told Reuters in an interview at Melbourne Park.

"Reaching the final at the U.S. Open was a huge experience for me. Until then I hadn't passed the third round (of a slam).

"I was waiting for this chance for a long time and I was just happy I could go even further and didn't just finish in the fourth round.

"Even when you're not playing your best, somehow you have to win because I know I can be dangerous deep in the tournament, quarters and semis and when there are big players I can beat them."

The Czech was barely tested on Tuesday, banging down five aces and hitting 26 winners to get off the court within an hour, a wise move on a day when temperatures hit 35 Celsius by 11 a.m. local time.

Pliskova has never lacked for confidence but there is nothing like reaching a grand slam final to make you believe you can go even further.

"I won a few titles already on the Tour, played the final of a grand slam, so I think I am able to win it," she said.

"I don't want to think about winning now, because we are at the beginning of the tournament and there's a long way to go.

"But one day I think I can get that far, get the chance to play the final again and maybe be the winner as well."

Pliskova, who won her opening event of the year in Brisbane earlier this month, hit the most aces on tour in 2016 – her total of 530 was more than 200 more than the next best, Serena Williams.

And should the seedings pan out in Melbourne, Pliskova could face Williams again in the semi-finals, a match she would relish.

"I like to play on big stages, to play better players than me, it's always challenging for me," she said.

"So somehow I have to get there – that’s for me the biggest problem so far – once I am there I am not scared about my tennis. I can still lose but it's good tennis."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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