Karolina Pliskova begins her bid for a first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open with a tough opening round against former top 10 star Kristina Mladenovic on Tuesday.
Karolina Pliskova ?? vs Kristina Mladenovic ?? Match Info
Date: Tuesday January 21
Tournament: Australian Open R1
Court: Rod Laver Arena
Time: 11.00am local time (12.00am GMT)
Karolina Pliskova vs Kristina Mladenovic Head-to-Head
Level at 2-2
2017 | Dubai R32 | Mladenovic 6-2 6-4
2016 | Fed Cup Final | Pliskova 6-3 4-6 16-14
2015 | Birmingham SF | Pliskova 6-2 7-6(6)
2014 | Moscow R32 | Mladenovic 6-3 7-5
Karolina Pliskova vs Kristina Mladenovic Match Preview
One of the stand-out opening round matches of the Australian Open sees second seed Pliskova face former top 10 player Mladenovic for the first time in three years.
Pliskova, just as she did last year, arrives at Melbourne Park with winning momentum after claiming the Brisbane International title just over a week ago, conquering the likes of Alison Riske, Naomi Osaka and Madison Keys en route to the silverware and a successful title defence.
The former World No. 1 has been extremely solid at the Australian Open in recent years, reaching the quarter-finals in 2017 and 2018 before advancing to the semi-finals for the first time last year, coming back from 1-5 down in the deciding set against Serena Williams in the quarter-finals before falling in a tight three-setter to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.
However, that was as good as it got for Pliskova at the slams in 2019, with the 27-year-old failing to make it past the fourth round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Pliskova is starting to develop a bit of a reputation for stumbling when it matters most – a player of her talent and firepower really should have picked up a major by now, especially in the wide open women’s game at the moment, but she hasn’t even been able to capture a Premier Mandatory trophy.
In saying that, Pliskova has improved her consistency, which is a good sign for the future. The Czech won four titles in 2019, adding Rome, Eastbourne and Zhengzhou to her Brisbane triumph at the start of the season, with those results helping her qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals and finish the year at No. 2.
Probably the best server on tour (she’s led the ace count in four of the last five years), Pliskova has the game to win multiple slams – but can she put it all together at the right time?
Mladenovic is her first rival at the Australian Open. The Frenchwoman has a poor record at Melbourne Park, losing in the first round in the last three years, with her best result coming in 2016 when she made the third round. Mladenovic hasn’t had a great start to 2020 either, failing to qualify for the Brisbane International in her only tournament before touching down in Melbourne.
After a career-best season in 2017 in which she finished runner-up at the Premier Mandatory Mutua Madrid Open, won the Premier-level St. Petersburg Ladies Open and made the French Open quarter-finals, Mladenovic suffered a dramatic slide down the rankings, and although she has been able to stabilise for year-end rankings of No. 44 and No. 40 in 2018 and 2019 respectively, she hasn’t come close to scaling the heights of her 2017 season. Mladenovic did look better last season however, registering five top 10 victories and ending the year in superb fashion, making semi-finals in Moscow and Zhengzhou before beating World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to spearhead France to Fed Cup glory over Australia in Perth. Could that triumph be the catalyst that propels Mladenovic back to the top of the game in 2020?
Karolina Pliskova vs Kristina Mladenovic Prediction
This is an extremely difficult match-up for Pliskova, who I think feels the pressure of her early Grand Slam exits more with each passing major. Mladenovic won their last meeting, but that came three years ago when the Frenchwoman was in career-best form. Pliskova looked so good in Brisbane and should be too classy if she maintains that level, but because this is a slam and Mladenovic has absolutely nothing to lose, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world if we saw the second seed fighting for survival on Tuesday.