Karolina Pliskova described her 6-2, 6-1 defeat to Maria Sharapova in the Roland Garros third round on Saturday as one of the worst matches from her side this season, adding that players like the Russian and Serena Williams know how to do whatever it takes to get a victory.
Pliskova, ranked No. 6 in the world, believes Sharapova is well on her way back to her best, but the Czech also rued her poor performance, saying her entire Roland Garros this year was sub-par.
“I think nothing was working for me and on the other side I think she was playing very well, hitting all the balls pretty deep. I didn’t have any chances – I had some chances but there weren’t many of them,” Pliskova said after the match.
“I think it was one of the worse matches this year from me…
“I don’t think I played well here throughout this tournament, not even any practice, not even any warm-up, not even any match. And this is the result.”
Sharapova has struggled with injuries since her return from a doping ban 13 months ago but found form in the build-up to the French Open, making the quarters in Madrid and semis in Rome – where she took out a sixth-ranked Jelena Ostapenko – to snag a last-minute seeding at Roland Garros.
Playing in Paris for the first time since 2015, Sharapova was pleased to make a return to Court Philippe Chatrier, and now awaits the winner of the clash between Serena Williams and Julia Goerges.
Pliskova, who often plays doubles with Goerges, believes the German has a chance against Serena, who claimed her first top-20 win since returning from maternity leave in the second round against Ashleigh Barty.
“I think she [Julia] has a chance today for sure, I just talked to her in the locker room a little bit. But still it’s Serena. It’s going to be tough to beat her because of the name for sure,” said Pliskova.
Asked to elaborate, Pliskova added: “Because it’s Serena Williams, even if she plays bad it’s still tough to beat her, it’s still tough to close the match. That’s how it is with those girls, so there is not always the best tennis but they just fight and they know how to turn the matches.”
While Sharapova was out of the game, Pliskova reached her first Grand Slam final, at the US Open in 2016, defeating Serena en route. The 26-year-old Czech rose to No. 1 in the world last year and has a serve that can intimidate many players out there. With Sharapova seeded 28 and still finding her way back, did Pliskova still feel the X-factor she was referring to earlier about Sharapova and Serena?
“I think for sure she is a name, not only because she’s Sharapova, but because she won a lot of tournaments, and not only because of what she had with doping or whatever, she’s a good player,” said Pliskova.
“She’s tough always, even if she’s double-faulting, or giving you a lot of mistakes, I think she can just play very well, aggressive. It’s the same with Serena, those girls just don’t give you the match for free, you just have to work for it. It doesn’t matter how bad she’s playing.”
She continued: “I think nobody is going to give you anything, because everybody is still playing, it’s a Grand Slam. But I think they [players like Sharapova] just try different things than maybe I try.
“I don’t take 30 seconds between every point to just make the opponent feel worse and those stuff. It’s more about the behaving around, not the tennis.
“So I think there is nobody who will give you a set, not even a game. She can give you a lot of mistakes, it’s not about the game of tennis, but it’s about the behaviour around, she does everything possible to win the match. Whether it’s with the timer, whatever, she screams, she does everything possible to win.”
Pliskova expects to head back home to Monaco before shifting her focus to the grass season and joked, “I don’t want to see any courts, not even grass courts” for a while.
On her part, Sharapova was thrilled by her clinical performance against Pliskova, who made semis in Paris last year, and won Stuttgart earlier this clay season.
“I think I was happy and smiling. I guess these are the types of occasions where you want to play really good, solid tennis against a top-10 player that’s been playing extremely well. When you’re able to deliver that on a Grand Slam stage, I think it makes it extra special,” said Sharapova.
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