Pliskova beats ´Dasha´ to dash Aussie hopes
MELBOURNE: Karolina Pliskova dashed home hopes when she thrashed Daria Gavrilova to move into an Australian Open quarter-final against comeback queen Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on Monday.
The fifth-seeded Czech shut out a partisan crowd on Rod Laver Arena to easily beat Australia´s Gavrilova, nicknamed ´Dasha´, 6-3, 6-3 and reach the last eight for the first time.
It sets her up for a showdown against Lucic-Baroni, the feel-good story of the tournament who is into her first Grand Slam quarter-final since Wimbledon in 1999.
The Croat, who dropped out of top-level tennis for most of the 2003-2010 period following heartbreaking personal problems, swept past American qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2.
“I´m so excited to be in my first quarter-final. It´s tough to play an Aussie girl, and I´m happy to fight to the last point,” said Pliskova.
“I´m feeling confident, much better than I did in the Grand Slams before the US Open. Everything is going my way now.”
After making the US Open final last year Pliskova has been tipped as a potential champion in Melbourne, although she was pushed all the way by Latvian teen Jelena Ostapenko in round three.
It was a fright for the tall Czech who, with her left thigh strapped, was aggressive from the start against Davrilova, breaking the nervous Australian straight away.
The power-hitting Czech sent down some big serves in the next game, with Gavrilova´s forehand letting her down as she struggled to get into the match.
Pliskova was proving unplayable, dropping just two points in her opening two service games, before breaking Gavrilova, seeded 22, again to go 4-1 in front.
The crowd had something to cheer about when the 22-year-old broke back with Pliskova serving for the set, but the Czech still closed it out 6-3 in the next game.
Gavrilova, bidding to become the first Australian to reach the last eight since Jelena Dokic in 2009, refused to lie down and went 1-0 up with a break in the second set.
But the Moscow-born 22-year-old, who also made the fourth round last year, didn´t have the firepower to match her opponent and errors crept in as she was swept aside in 73 minutes.
Looking ahead, Plisokova said facing Lucic-Baroni would not be easy.
“She is hitting big. It´s going to be quick. I´ll have to play aggressive, we´ll see,” she said of the 34-year-old, who stunned third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in round two.