Second seed Karolina Pliskova and sixth seed Belinda Bencic each won in straight sets against tricky opponents to secure their spot in the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
Bencic, who is trying to reach the second week of the Australian Open for just the second time in her career, was tasked with an extremely difficult second round clash with 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko – but the Swiss was up to the challenge, surviving a rollercoaster encounter to emerge triumphant by a 7-5 7-5 scoreline.
Both born in 1997, Bencic and Ostapenko first played each other when they were 10 years old, and there were no surprises between the pair in a match filled with wild momentum swings.
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Bencic eventually recovered from 2-5 down in the second set to reel off five consecutive games and the match after one hour and 41 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.
“This is exactly what I expected, this kind of match,” Bencic said in her press conference. “It’s three games how she’s playing really great and then three games a little bit more unforced errors. So I think with her it was totally normal and I was kind of expecting this.
“I’m happy I didn’t panic when things weren’t going my way.”
Coming off a resurgent season in which she returned to her career-high ranking of No. 7 after winning the Dubai title and making the semi-finals of the U.S. Open and Indian Wells, Bencic is hoping to establish herself as a top 10 player for the entire 2020 season and challenge for major prizes.
The 22-year-old has never been past the fourth round of the Australian Open, but she has a decent draw to do so this fortnight, facing the winner of Anett Kontaveit or Sara Sorribes Tormo in the third round, and if she wins that, one of either Donna Vekic, Iga Swiatek or Carla Suarez Navarro will be waiting in the Round of 16.
Meanwhile, Pliskova continues to fly under the radar – as she does at a lot of slams – with the second seed registering a routine 6-3 6-3 win over the dangerous Laura Siegemund on Rod Laver Arena.
Siegemund, a former top 30 player, beat Pliskova in their only previous meeting in Stuttgart in 2017, but the Czech was ready for the unorthodox German in Melbourne, closing out the match in straight sets – although she didn’t know if it was a pleasant match to watch.
“I’m not sure if it was really nice tennis today,” Pliskova said during his on-court interview. “I think she has a very ugly game for me, so I’m never going to feel amazing playing her.
“I’m just happy to be through because this was an ugly match for me. Last time we played was on clay, and I think she’s more difficult on that surface, so I’m just happy I’m through and hopefully I can feel better in my next round.”
There were also wins during the day session on Thursday for Donna Vekic, who beat the experienced Alize Cornet in straight sets, and former World No. 1 Garbine Muguruza, who outlasted home favourite Ajla Tomljanovic in three.