By Martyn Herman
PARIS (Reuters) – Karolina Pliskova’s quest for a maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open came to an end on Friday as the second seed lost 6-3 6-3 to Croatia’s Petra Martic.
The powerful Czech struggled throughout to find the range on her feared serve and forehand as 31st seed Martic matched her best performance by reaching the last 16.
Martic broke in the seventh game and then again two games later as Pliskova hit a backhand long to drop the opener.
A lacklustre Pliskova then dropped serve again at the start of the second set before hitting back with a flurry of winners to break her 28-year-old opponent twice in a row.
The fightback did not last though and Martic regained control with two more breaks before serving it out at 5-3.
“I think the score was closer than it looked in the end,” a disappointed Pliskova told reporters. “I had chances in a couple of games but it was difficult for me today.”
The 27-year-old Czech made twice as many unforced errors as Martic and complained that the Philippe-Chatrier court was slow, and therefore did not suit her game.
“She (Martic) played clever. She was patient too. I just made too many mistakes,” added Pliskova, who came to Paris having won in Rome.
Martic, who will play an unseeded player next, either Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi or Russian Veronika Kudermetova, tried to dominate Pliskova and mostly the tactic worked.
“The key was to focus on my game and try to dictate instead of letting her dictate, which is her biggest strength,” said the Croat.
“I had to kind of try to take it away from her, and at times it was difficult, especially when she broke me and when she got a few winners, which she’s known for.
“And I’m just happy that I managed in the end to hold my nerves and to finish it off.”
There was better news for Pliskova’s fellow Czech Marketa Vondrousova as the 19-year-old reached the last 16 with a 6-4 6-4 defeat of Spanish 28th seed Carla Suarez Navarro.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)