Tennis

Karolina Pliskova shows her title credentials

Former world No. 1 eases past Olympic champion Puig 6-0, 6-4

Karolina Pliskova has long been thought of as a Grand Slam champion-in-waiting and the Czech provided evidence of her grasscourt pedigree yesterday, when she hurtled past Monica Puig 6-0, 6-4 in the second round of Wimbledon.

"I feel like I'm improving every day on grass," said Pliskova, who arrived at Wimbledon full of confidence after scooping her third WTA title on grass at Eastbourne last week.

"The title in Eastbourne helped me feel more confident and to get more used to the surface."

But if Pliskova was hoping her success at Eastbourne would easily translate to a Wimbledon title, she will have to buck recent trends. Fellow Czech Jana Novotna was the last woman to have pulled off the feat 21 years ago.

Yesterday, though, Pliskova showed why she is considered as one of the front runners for this year's Wimbledon crown.

The 27-year-old, who could topple Ashleigh Barty from the top of the women's rankings if she reaches the latter stages of the grasscourt Major, will next meet Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei.

"The deeper you go, the better players you play, so it's not going to be easy here," said Pliskova, whose only defeat on grass this season was against her twin Kristyna in the last 16 in Birmingham.

Another former world No. 1, Victoria Azarenka, was even more ruthless than Pliskova as she dished out a 6-2, 6-0 mauling to Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic.

In the men's draw, Reilly Opelka blasted his way into the third round as the giant 21-year-old American's serve eventually proved too hot to handle for triple Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in a high-octane five set duel.

The 2.11m Opelka came through 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 against the 22nd-seeded Swiss for the biggest win of his career.

Opelka, into the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time, now faces a possible meeting with 15th seed Milos Raonic.

"He's as good as it gets when it comes to grass so I'm really excited about that," he said. "Outside the big three, he's probably got the best chance of winning Wimbledon." - REUTERS

Tennis