Women's wrap: Pliskova's revenge and another Brady triumph

  • Dan Imhoff

Defeat eight days ago has delivered a silver lining for Karolina Pliskova as the Czech exacted revenge over Danielle Collins to reach the Australian Open third round on Thursday.

The sixth seed had fallen to the firebrand American at last week’s Yarra Valley Classic, but won the clash that mattered more.

She admitted her 7-5 6-2 victory was far from her finest, but enough to progress to a showdown with her quarantine training partner, fellow Czech Karolina Muchova.

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“It was tough because we played last week. The match was very close,” Pliskova said. “At least I knew how she's playing little bit. I don't think was really good quality today. 

“I think I just played better in some moments, which I didn't last week. Then she was not playing that well as she did last week.

“But the second set definitely better. Hopefully a better match in the next round.”

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Collins had a history of success on Australian soil.

In 2019, on the back of five first-round exits at the majors, she reached her maiden Slam semifinal at Melbourne Park, felling a slew of seeds – Julia Goerges, Caroline Garcia and Angelique Kerber – en route.

She claimed victories over Elina Svitolina in Brisbane and over Sofia Kenin and Belinda Bencic in Adelaide ahead of last year’s Australian Open before the pandemic hit.

AO2019 also marked Pliskova’s best outing at Melbourne Park, a run in which she saved match points to beat Serena Williams.

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With new coach Sash Bajin on board, her Grand Slam goal remains clear, but the focus does not jump beyond the next task at hand – beating 25th seed Muchova.

“We know each other so much.” Pliskova said.

“We're actually quite good friends. I think it's going to be a good atmosphere, there is not really the tension that we hate each other. 

“I think it can be good match. Of course, she's a dangerous player.”

Bencic beats blisters and Russian veteran

Belinda Bencic overcame a bad bout of blisters and a mid-match blip to book her place in the third round over Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday.

Kuznetsova, bidding to pass the second round at a major for the first time since Wimbledon 2017, looked to have swung momentum when she levelled at a set apiece before the 11th seed regrouped for a 7-5 2-6 6-4 victory.

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The Swiss had beaten the two-time major champion three of the five times they had met, but had fallen to the Russian in their most recent clash in Doha last February.

She will take on Belgian 18th seed Elise Mertens next, an opponent she has not faced before.

“It was a tough match, as I expected against Kuznetsova. We always have three-set matches,” Bencic said. 

“I was watching the tactics a lot of times to play against her. I was happy with the way I fought, super happy about the win of course, but it was not easy out there. I just tried to tough it out.”

Mertens finds voice after pressure from Zhu

The Belgian survived a torrid first-set struggle on Thursday against China’s Zhu Lin before she pulled clear and booked a place in the third round.

Returning to the site of her sole Grand Slam semifinal in 2018, the 25-year-old twice served for the opening set and was forced to fend off two set points as she rolled home a 7-6(8) 6-1 winner.

There was a scream of “C’mon, allez!” as she brought up her first set point in the tie-break and and a prolonged scream of “Allez!” as took the opener on her second chance after 66 minutes.

The pressure valve was released as she charged through the second set in just 37 minutes against the world No.94

“I think I played a bit more aggressive in the second set, a bit better, first serve was going in more so that definitely made a difference,” Mertens said.

Brady wins another all-American battle

It's not often Melbourne gets compared to a desert, but that was the hot take from 22nd seed Jennifer Brady on Thursday.

In an all-American battle, Brady breezed past Madison Brengle 6-1 6-2 in just 53 minutes.

The 25-year-old double-faulted on her first match point but with two more up her sleeve she finished the job to set up a third-round meeting with Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan.

“I think today the conditions were a little bit tough, it was pretty windy out there, the heat was strong today,” Brady said. “I definitely felt it when I went outside today.

“It was a little bit more of a dry heat, kind of like a desert out in California. I'm really happy with how I was able to serve today, just play aggressive tennis and come out with the win.”