(Reuters) – Second seed Karolina Pliskova got exactly what she needed in her 6-1 7-5 victory over a determined Kristina Mladenovic on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday to advance to the second round of the Australian Open.
Czech Pliskova will next play either Germany’s Laura Siegemund or American wildcard CoCo Vandeweghe.
Pliskova, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park last year, was at her imperious best with her groundstrokes in a 25-minute first set she totally dominated despite a wayward serve.
Mladenovic, however, stepped up her game in the second, the 26-year-old Frenchwoman moving Pliskova around the court more and the Czech was forced to work harder for her points and improve a first serve that landed just 50% in the first set.
She upped that to 78% in the second and won the points that mattered to continue a perfect start to 2020 after she won the Brisbane International title last week.
“I think it was quite good for first match,” Pliskova told reporters. “Of course the match was not easy. So I think, yeah, it was a good test for a first round.”
The only resistance Mladenovic put up early on was in the nine-minute third game when she held two break points, but world number two Pliskova was able to fight them off.
Mladenovic managed to get on the board when she finally held in the sixth game, but Pliskova served out in the next game, wrapping up the first set with her second ace in 36 minutes.
Such was Pliskova’s dominance in the first set Mladenovic failed to win a point in four of the seven games.
Mladenovic was far better in the second set and while she was broken for the third time in the match to give Pliskova a 4-3 advantage, she converted the first of her seven break opportunities in the next game.
She then held to take a 5-4 lead but any hope of extending the match to a decider fizzled as Pliskova won the next three games to seal her spot in the second round.
“I think it starts always with me,” said the Czech. “If I play good and fast enough, deep enough, then there is not much she can do.
“So it was … mainly about me, because I thought if I can just play good tennis, I think I’m going to be fine, which I kind of was.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)