Karolina Pliskova showed the steel of a world No 1 as she fought off a match point to claim a riveting 3-6 7-5 6-4 comeback win over Zhang Shuai in the US Open third round on Saturday.
Pliskova, runner-up at Flushing Meadows last year, would have lost her world No 1 ranking had she been beaten on Arthur Ashe Stadium but moved another step closer to a first career grand slam title.
Chinese Zhang was aggressive throughout the match but was ultimately worn down by the tall, big-serving Czech.
Pliskova needed an injury time out to attend to a sore arm in the second set, which she hopes will not bother her when she faces either American Jennifer Brady or Monica Niculescu of Romania.
“I will have to improve in the next one,” the 25-year-old said in a courtside interview.
“Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and I’ll be ready for my next match.”
The match was 25-year-old Zhang’s best showing against the tournament’s top seed but she came up short and is now winless in five matches against Pliskova.
OSTAPENKO OUT OF US OPEN
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko was knocked out of the US Open third round, losing 6-3 6-2 to Russian Daria Kasaktina after hitting a massive 38 unforced errors.
The Latvian 12th seed, who broke into the limelight in June when she blasted her way to the Roland Garros title, got off to a fast start but the unseeded Kasaktina mixed her game with sliced backhands and chopped forehands to slow her opponent down.
The plan worked as after winning the first three games, Ostapenko grew frustrated and bowed out when she netted a backhand on the second match point at the end of a lung-busting rally.
Ostapenko complained 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 Kasaktina, who faces Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi for a place in the quarterfinals.