Australian Open: Karolina Muchova downs Karolina Pliskova; Kaia Kanepi ousted

Elina Svitolina also made it to the second week with an easy win

by Abbey Johnson
Australian Open: Karolina Muchova downs Karolina Pliskova; Kaia Kanepi ousted

Karolina Muchova handed the biggest upset in the women’s draw at the Australian Open on Saturday. The 25th seed Czech won a match of attrition against compatriot, the sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, 7-5, 7-5 in an hour 54 minutes to reach the fourth round.

The opening set featured multiple service breaks, beginning with an exchange of break in the opening two games of the set. While Muchova wasn’t able to hold onto her lead for long durations in the set, it was Pliskova whose equilibrium looked much shakier.

Eventually, things came to a head as Pliskova decisively lost her serve for the third time in the set, in its 11th game, which allowed Muchova to serve out the set and lead in the match. Shrugging off the first set proceedings, Pliskova began the second set quite confidently.

She reeled off five games in a row, breaking her countrywoman twice, and going up 5-0 was merely one game away from levelling the match at a set apiece. However, what followed was an inexplicable loss of self-belief on Pliskova’s part and some gutsy play-making on Muchova’s part.

The lower-ranked Czech scripted quite an astounding comeback from 0-5 down as she won seven straight games to make it to the second week of the Australian Open for the first time in her career.

Australian Open: Elina Svitolina moves along

In the pre-quarter-finals, Muchova will play 18th seed Elise Mertens who upset 11th seed Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1 in their third-round clash.

Donna Vekic ended Kaia Kanepi’s giant-killing run in the third round. The 28th-seeded Croatian notched a comeback of her own – coming from a set down and saving a match point – to win 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4. The Estonian led by a break in the second and third sets but Vekic was able to overturn the deficit after the former’s error-prone shot-making prevented her from consolidating the breaks of serve.

In the second set with Vekic serving to stay in the match at 4-5, Kanepi had match point but Vekic saved with a winner off her forehand. That point marked the turnaround of the match as Vekic levelled the match by taking the second set tie-break, 7-2.

In the final set, Kanepi broke Vekic’s serve twice in its opening moments but was broken right back. As Vekic began to hit her shots more freely, the unseeded player began to look tight. In the 10th game of the set, while trying to extend the proceedings further, Kanepi’s serve lost traction completely.

She did save one match point but was unable to save the second with a forced error ending her quest Down Under. Vekic will play 22nd seed Jennifer Brady in the fourth round. Brady defeated Kaja Juvan 6-1, 6-3 in their round-of-32 match.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina and Jessica Pegula will play the pre-quarter-finals at the Australian Open. Svitolina won against 26th seed Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 6-0. Pegula beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-1. This is the first time the American has made it this far at a Major.

Karolina Pliskova Kaia Kanepi Elina Svitolina