LONDON (Reuters) - Third seed Karolina Pliskova bludgeoned her way into the second round of Wimbledon on Monday, using her huge serve and searing forehand to fend off tenacious Chinese challenger Zhu Lin 6-2 7-6(4).
But Pliskova, who won the Eastbourne grasscourt tournament on Saturday, blowing away Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber in the final, had a tougher time on the All England Club’s distant Court Two, against an opponent ranked 98 places behind her.
She zipped through the first set, whipping a crosscourt return into the corner to wrap it up in 27 minutes.
But, as Zhu found her feet and her range on the new grass, the 27-year-old Czech began to look a little out of sorts and produced a few loose shots among 18 unforced errors.
“My feeling was my timing was a little bit off,” Pliskova said, adding the court felt slower than she expected.
“Sometimes I thought I hit a great shot, but she still was there, she was still able to make it. I don’t know if she’s that good or the court is that slow.”
Zhu, 25, who failed to qualify for Wimbledon the last three years, scurried up and down the baseline, chasing everything down and countering the serve with some fine returning.
Pliskova had to use that booming forehand to get her out of trouble in the 12th game of the second set, saving three set points in a marathon game of seven deuces.
That game ended Zhu’s resistance and Pliskova, a former number one, who could rise to the top spot again at the Championships, took the tiebreak and the match after 1 hour 21 minutes.
The last woman to win at Eastbourne and Wimbledon in the same year was Pliskova’s late compatriot Jana Novotna in 1998.
Pliskova said Court Two’s surface was different from the practice court nearby and from Eastbourne.
“I think the grass, it’s kind of quite high, I would say, and long. So I don’t know, the ball just stays, doesn’t really go,” she said.
The Czech has fine grasscourt credentials having won Eastbourne twice and Nottingham once and having now racked up 27 grasscourt victories over the last four years.
And she has some grasscourt expertise to back her up. Her coach, Spaniard Conchita Martinez, won her only Grand Slam title at the All England Club, beating Martina Navratilova in the 1994 final.
Pliskova will meet Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in the second round.
Reporting by Clare Lovell; Editing by Alison Williams