Pliskova back from the brink

Karolina Pliskova

World No 1 Karolina Pliskova fought back from the brink of defeat to beat Zhang Shuai in the US Open third round on Saturday.

Pliskova, who finished runner-up at Flushing Meadows last year, won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to reach the fourth round and move a step closer to a first Grand Slam title.

Had she lost to Zhang, Pliskova would have relinquished her World No 1 ranking.

Zhang, the 27th seed, found herself broken in the very first game of the match, but then stunned Pliskova by claiming successive breaks of her own immediately after and holding on to take the first set.

The second set initially followed the exact same pattern as the first, with Pliskova carving out the early break only for Zhang to break back twice in response.

The Chinese No 2 served for the match at 5-4, and even had a match point advantage, but Pliskova clawed her way back level before clinching another break following a marathon 12th game and leveling the scores.

The tables then turned in the third set, with Zhang breaking in the very first game of the match only for Pliskova to claim two breaks of her own and clinch victory after almost two and a half hours on court.

Pliskova needed treatment for a sore arm during the second set, and hopes it won’t be a factor going forward.

“I will have to improve in the next one,” she said.

“Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and I’ll be ready for my next match.”

Elsewhere, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko saw her title challenge come to an end at the hands of Russian Daria Kasatkina.

Ostapenko produced no less than 38 unforced errors during an undisciplined display, complaining of nausea and illness during the match.

“In the beginning I was a little bit nervous but I tried to stay focused and play my game and it paid off,” said Kasatkina, who outfoxed and frustrated her hard-hitting opponent with a mixture of sliced and chopped shots throughout the 73-minute contest.

It was also the end of the road for 10th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who was beaten 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 by 20th-seeded American Coco Vandeweghe, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Vandeweghe’s performance was erratic at times, leading to 54 unforced errors, but she also struck an impressive 49 winners to wear down her opponent, eventually edging the contest by six breaks of serve to five.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina, meanwhile, was given a stern test by another home favourite, Shelby Rogers, before she was able to complete a 6-4, 7-5 victory.

After losing the first set, Rogers had the crowd on their feet when she broke as Svitolina was serving for the match, but the Ukranian was able to get the upper hand again a few games later to keep her US Open hopes alive.

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