Melbourne: Fifth-seed Karolina Pliskova survived a huge scare on Saturday, scrambling into the Australian Open fourth round after battling from a set down in a marathon match.
The Czech, who had dropped only four games in her opening two matches, needed two hours and five minutes to get past fast-rising Latvian teen Jelena Ostapenko 4-6, 6-0, 10-8 in a see-sawing encounter.
Her perseverance set her up for a last-16 clash with local hope Daria Gavrilova, who ground her way past 12th-seeded Swiss Timea Bacsinszky in three sets.
Whoever gets through that match will play either Croatian veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni or American qualifier Jennifer Brady in the quarter-finals.
"I think I was a bit lucky in the end, she was the better player," said Pliskova of the 19-year-old.
"When she was 5-2 up (in the third set) she was missing a little bit more, so I was still staying in the game.
"I was just trying to put the ball in because she was playing so fast and aggressive, and wait for my chance.
"I'm so happy to be in the fourth round for the first time in my life."
It was a fortunate win for Pliskova who was put under the pump by Ostapenko, ranked 38, immediately.
The teen only made her Australian Open debut last year, crashing in the first round, a feat she mirrored at the three other Grand Slams.
But she wasn't intimidated by a high-ranked opponent and a prime time evening match on Margaret Court Arena, firing a perfect backhand winner to go a break up.
Pliskova hit straight back but the towering Czech couldn't keep the momentum going and Ostapenko, against all the odds, took the set.
It was a different Pliskova in the second set as she refocused and readjusted her game, finding her range on her booming forehand to race through it to love, full of confidence.
But the plucky teen wasn't ready to roll over and followed up a brilliant break with a hold to love and then another break to go 5-2 in front in the third.
The frustrated Czech took it out on her racquet, throwing it on the ground to earn a code violation.
But getting the frustration out seemed to work and she reeled off four games in a row as the pressure mounted on the Latvian.
Ostapenko, a former Wimbledon girls champion who has steadily risen through the rankings, refused to give up, trading blows all the way to 10-8 when she finally succumbed.
Published Date: Jan 22, 2017 00:10 AM | Updated Date: Jan 22, 2017 00:10 AM