NEW YORK—Karolina Pliskova dropped her first set of this year's US Open on Friday, but more importantly, not her first match. The No. 3 seed was pushed by world No. 62 Ons Jabeur before sealing the win, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
"The balls just stayed really low from her, so it was very tough. Physically [it] was also quite tough battle," Pliskova said. "Its important to win so it doesn’t matter how I feel."
The Czech appeared to be in cruise control after a 26-minute first set. But Jabeur, a athletic and talented 25-year-old with a ton of spin, slice and variety in her game, can be tough to subdue. Friday marked their first-career meeting and, while Jabeur struggled early on, she settled in and began to better handle Pliskova’s flat, penetrating strokes.
"Of course, I think she also improved her game a lot in the second set," Pliskova said. "She hit a couple unbelievable shots and she just started to get into her rhythm. And it's as really difficult because she can hit anything from any position on the court. She hits a lot of slices which I don’t love."
The 6'1" Pliskova, a 2016 finalist at the US Open, was out-maneuvered by the crafty Jabuer at times, and was out-winnered by the end: the Tunisian would hit 49 winners to Pliskova’s 31. Jabeur also matched the WTA's ace queen when it came to serving, hitting 10 aces to Pliskova’s 10.
But Pliskova hit six of those in the final set, showing that it's not how many aces or winners you strike, it's when you strike them.
"In the last couple games I just really saved all the break points and was able to hit a couple aces in the third set which was a big help," Pliskova said.
Jabeur was making just her second appearance in the third round of a major. This week marked her first major-level win of 2019, having beaten No. 27 seed Caroline Garcia and Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
She shown flashes of her brilliance in her career, most recently reaching the semifinals of Eastbourne in June, before having to withdraw. She also has three Top-10 wins to her name: over Dominika Cibulkova in 2017, and Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens in 2018. The only Arab woman inside of the Top 100, Jabeur surpassed Tunisia’s Selima Sfar’s career-high ranking of No. 75 last year when she reached the Moscow final.
It's a result that can leave both players pleased, but only one still in the draw.
"I still have great memories from here," Pliskova said. "Every year I'm doing a new one and a new one. I'm just happy I can continue here."
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