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Karolina Pliskova gave Naomi Osaka a reality check on her return to tournament tennis by rallying for a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 victory in a high-quality, second-round clash at the Brisbane International on Wednesday, January 3.
Osaka had eased through her first tour match in 15 months on Monday after taking time out of the game to have a child but former world No. 1 Pliskova proved an altogether tougher prospect.
The contest started well for four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka after she banged down five aces to lock up the opening set in 37 minutes against her rusty-looking opponent, who had received a bye through the first round.
Pliskova found her rhythm in the second set, however, and although Osaka’s rock solid serve repeatedly got her out of trouble until the tiebreak, she was unable to prevent the Czech from leveling up the contest.
An early break allowed Pliskova to get her nose in front in the deciding set and she saved three break points in the next game to retain her advantage over her 26-year-old rival.
That was as close as Osaka got and Pliskova showed the quality of her own serve to ease into the third round and a clash with Camila Giorgi or third seed Jelena Ostapenko.
“I’m happy to start with a win, the start of the season is always important, I thought I played quite well,” Pliskova, who won the Brisbane title in 2017, 2019 and 2020, said in an on-court interview.
“I thought my focus (was the difference), you can practice for as long as you like but a match is always a bit different.”
Osaka will take plenty of positives out of the contest, not least the 14 aces she pounded down, as she looks ahead to her return to the Grand Slam arena at the Australian Open, a tournament she won in 2019 and 2021.
Reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka plays her first WTA tour match of the year against Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti in later action in Brisbane on Wednesday. – Rappler.com