World number three Karolina Pliskova got her grass court season off to a very solid start on Monday, seeing off strong grass court player Alison Riske in straight sets to reach the third round at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
It was not a perfect performance by the third seed, who hit six double faults throughout the match, though she did not lose serve once and was more than strong enough against the potentially dangerous Riske, who provided a real test but faltered slightly at the latter stages of both sets.
Pliskova, who reached the final in Eastbourne last year, could face 15th seed Timea Bacsinszky in the third round; the Swiss will face either Francesca Schiavone or Shuai Peng in her second round clash.
Pliskova nerveless as she takes the opening set
It took a few games for Pliskova, who lost in the final to Dominika Cibulkova last year, to settle into the match, but once she did she was rarely threatened and showed her experience of playing at the top level when it really mattered.
It was the American who arguably got off to the better start of the two, pushing Pliskova in both of the third seed’s opening two service games whilst holding herself with relative ease, though Pliskova seemingly settled some early jitters with an impressive love hold, featuring two aces, to take a 3-2 lead in the opening set.
The two were now both dominant on serve, with neither giving away a break point in the opening eight games of the encounter. It was at this point, however, that Pliskova started to pile on the pressure. The Czech held comfortably to put herself within a game of the first set and then attacked heavily when Riske was serving to stay in it. The American could not withstand the pressure, double faulting on the first break point of the match to hand Pliskova the first set.
Pliskova too strong when it matters as she takes victory
The early stages were once again close, though the world number three showed once again why she is one of the best in the world as she raised her level when it mattered to take the victory.
The opening stages of the second set went on serve, with Pliskova building up a 3-2 lead, though there were certainly more openings than there were in the opening set. The Czech looked as if she’d continue her momentum and take a fourth game in a row when she held breakpoints on the American’s serve, though Riske impressively saw them off before missing a slight opportunity herself, failing to capitalize on a 30-0 lead on Pliskova’s serve in the next game as the Czech held to stay in front.
Things were comfortable for both women until, once again, Pliskova started to take control in the closing stages of the set. After putting herself just two games from victory, the third seed was too strong for the American and broke for the second time in the match to put herself a game from victory. The Czech was not faultless when serving for the victory, wasting three match points, though took her fourth to start her grass court campaign with a solid victory.