Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova served 12 aces against China's Zhang Shuai
Melbourne (AFP) - Former world number one Karolina Pliskova kept herself on track for a maiden Grand Slam title Monday with a “super aggressive” performance to destroy Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-4 in the Australian Open fourth round.
The Czech 30th seed continued her confident run at Melbourne Park with a sizzling serving display, banging down 12 aces as she crushed the 23rd seed from China on the Kia Arena show-court.
“I thought I started really well today, super aggressive,” said Pliskova, who raced through the first set in just 21 minutes.
“But I was going for it, especially the first set. A little bit slowed down in the second set, but also she started to play a bit better. Maybe a bit smarter.
“But I’m just happy that I made it because the second set, it could go, I think, both ways.”
Pliskova, who endured a torrid 2022 and missed last year’s Australian Open with a wrist injury, was imperious in reaching her 11th Grand Slam quarter-final.
The 30-year-old has won 16 WTA Tour titles and reached the semi-final at Melbourne Park in 2019.
Pliskova is yet to drop a set and on this form has an opportunity to go all the way, especially with the top two seeds, Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur, already out.
- ‘The best match I played’ -
“I think the serve was really working for me well in these matches,” she told reporters.
“I think this is so far the best match I played here, definitely, especially the first set. I’m feeling the ball quite well, so happy for that.”
Pliskova will face Polish world number 45 Magda Linette, who stunned fourth seed Caroline Garcia of France, for a place in the semi-final.
“I watched her a little bit this week,” Pliskova said of Linette, who will be appearing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the age of 30.
“I think she really improved her game a lot. She started to believe. Of course you can see that. She’s a fighter, playing a really good game from the baseline.
“I just can’t give her the time and the game she wants to play.
“If I play like I played today, I think it’s tough for anybody to compete with that.”
Last season Pliskova plummeted from fourth in the world to finish outside the top 30 for the first time since 2013.
Along the way, she was bundled out of the French Open in the second round by a 277th-ranked qualifier, as her fortunes on court hit rock bottom.
“Last year was tough, especially missing Australia, which is my favourite country and my favourite tournament to play,” she said.
“It was difficult to get back into shape, but I’m happy that I’m competing back at the level I want to be.
“It’s always great to be in the second week of a Slam and hopefully I can stay a bit longer.”
Another second-round exit at Wimbledon prompted her to sack coach Sascha Bajin, the German who guided Naomi Osaka to back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open.
In December, she rehired Bajin, who was seen beaming courtside Monday, and the turnaround in her form has been rapid.
“We have had some great success together,” she said.
“So that’s why it took him back. I believe we have plenty more tournaments to come and plenty more success. So hopefully, we can finally win some trophies together.”