Monday, 23 January 2017

Pliskova dangerous

Australia's last hope in singles at the 2017 Aus Open, Daria Gavrilova, aka Dasha, opened proceedings in the night session on Rod Laver Arena on Day Eight.
Her gigantic task in the round of sixteen was to take a quarter final spot, and in the process deny Karolina Pliskova that berth.

The fifth seed, mine and many others pick to win the tournament, had an almighty scare in the third round when Jelena Ostapenko served for the match at 5-2 and 5-4, before taking Pliskova to 10-8 in the third.
Dasha knocked out Swiss 12th seed Timea Bacsinszky in three sets to reach the fourth round.

Dasha had played Karolina twice before, most recently at Eastbourne in 2016, and had yet to win a set off the Czech star. 
Pliskova asked Gavrilova to serve first.  An off forehand winner helped her to game point but that and a second one were lost, and a break point saved, in what turned into a long critical game.  A second break point resulted from a double fault, but the trusty off forehand came to the rescue.  The break arrived on the third opportunity.  Pliskova 1-0.
Ace from Pliskova a nice way to begin.  A second ace gave her two game points and a lob winner took her to 2-0. 

Some good first serves by Dasha were countered by better ground strokes of Karolina and deuce came.  Dasha survived it and registered a score. 1-2.
Aces flowing, Pliskova raced to 3-1.  Two more break points and only one needed.  Pliskova ahead 4-1.  Her pace of shot was worrying Dasha who hadn't settled into a rhythm just yet.  She was rushing her shots instead of using the pace of the fifth seed to her advantage.

Pliskova held serve easily, surrendering only one point to a stunning return winner from Dasha.
A forehand crosscourt winner off the Gavrilova racquet earned a game point and the Aussie converted it for 2-5 and an important confidence boost.

A poor first point was rectified by a good second serve but it was 15-30 when Dasha mysteriously clean bowled Karolina.  Two break points from nowhere became one once an ace was delivered, but a wild Czech shot donated the break to Gavrilova and it was 3-5.

A solid return at Dasha's feet and 0-30.  A forehand winner down the line tightened things but a loose backhand presented two set points to Pliskova.  One was wasted. Not the second and Pliskova had the set 6-3, and the bonus of serving first in set two.

A double fault compounded a poor start to set two for Karolina but 0-30 was improved after winning an excellent rally with a crisp volley.  An ace was next.  A second double fault created break point and the net collected a forehand to give Dasha the lead 1-0.

Dasha, despite one winner, faced two break points on her serve, saving one with another attacking winner, the other with one on the opposite side.  Double fault but an error from Pliskova and deuce.  A fourth break point and finally Pliskova broke through for 1-1.

It took all game but Pliskova did find a first serve and it produced an ace.  Despite relying on second serves, she held comfortably and led 2-1.
A lovely backhand return winner off the Pliskova racquet brought up two break points but great serves from Gavrilova pulled it back to deuce.  A third break point, however, was followed by a double fault and Karolina strode to 3-1.

A few more first serves this time around for Karolina, and but for a brain fade on a simple volley, the game was good to watch.  4-1 Pliskova and quarter final bound apparently.
30-0 is usually good, but against Pliskova nothing is safe, and three straight points gave her a break chance on the Dasha serve.  A quality serve saved it.  And she held serve 2-4 and still just a single break behind.

Four great serves destroyed any immediate hopes of a break back and Pliskova led 5-2.  
Dasha with an ace made it to 30-0 again.  A ripping forehand down the line from Pliskova won her a point but Gavrilova answered it and a winner of her own sealed the game 3-5.

Karolina served for the match.  30-0 quickly.  A poor forehand and 30-15.  Match points after Gavrilova hit one long.  Both gone with bad swings.  Deuce.  Third chance after a great point and the match was hers with an ace, the first serve working just in time.  6-3 6-3 and into the quarter final.

Top class performance from Karolina Pliskova and little Dasha Gavrilova could do against this player in the form she displayed.

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