Croatia's Petra Martic sent second seed Karolina Pliskova packing in the third round of the French Open on Friday, defeating the Rome champion, 6-3, 6-3. With Pliskova's loss, current world No. 1 Naomi Osaka is guaranteed to maintain her place atop the rankings through Roland Garros.
“I can’t believe it. I’m shaking right now to be honest,” Martic told Marion Bartoli on-court afterwards. “So many emotions in me. I can’t think about numbers right now. I hope I’m going to continue this way.”
The 31st-seeded Martic has won a WTA-leading 14 matches on clay this season, picking up her first WTA singles trophy in Istanbul. She is through to the round of 16 in Paris for the third time, adding to previous runs in 2012 and 2017. The 28-year-old awaits the winner of an unseeded encounter between Veronika Kudermetova and Kaia Kanepi.
From 3-3, 40-0 on Pliskova’s serve in the opening set, Martic’s variety and scrambling earned the first break of the match. Martic consolidated despite two double faults, and went on a six-game run to grab a set and a break lead.
The Czech began to connect in forehand exchanges, handling her opponents change of pace. Pliskova saved three break points for 2-2 and broke Martic for the second time in the ensuing game, drawing a long backhand from Martic to end a 14-shot rally. That was the last game Pliskova would add to the scoreboard.
Mistimed groundstrokes, double faults and a sitting volley pushed long contributed to the collapse of the pre-tournament contender. Martic was equally as responsible, relying on her nifty backhand slice to put her in winning positions while keeping her shots deep and low enough when on the defense. She was solid on serve, saving six of the eight break points she faced to pull out the win in 85 minutes.
"The key was to focus on my game and try to dictate instead of letting her dictate, which is her biggest strength," Martic said in her post-match press conference. "I had to kind of try to take it away from her, and at times it was difficult. Especially when she broke me and when she got a few winners, which she's known for. I'm just happy that I managed in the end to hold my nerves and to finish it off."
Martic improved to 2-1 against Pliskova in Tour-level meetings, avenging an earlier season defeat in the second round of the Miami Open.
"My serve wasn't really working. I don't think she did much wrong today, so I think she played clever," said Pliskova. "She was patient. I just did too many mistakes."