In a repeat third round match from last year’s Australian Open, Karolina Pliskova will once again be attempting to reach the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time when she plays Ekaterina Makarova. Pliskova has reached the third round of a Grand Slam twice but is yet to make that elusive breakthrough into a fourth round. While she had a superb 2015 season, Pliskova struggled to peak for the big events and has lost before the third round at the last three Slams.
After a routine first round win against the Australian wildcard, Kimberly Birrell, Pliskova faced much tougher opposition in the second round against Julia Goerges; the Czech player prevailed, 7-6(5) 6-1. There was little to call between the pair in the first set which was fittingly decided on the tiebreak. Pliskova missed a set point at 6-4 with Goerges crunching away a return winner, but the German player double faulted on the second set point. Pliskova flew through the second set, snapping Goerges’s resistance.
Makarova, aka the Bourne-GOAT, is once again in the third round at the Australian Open. The Russian player hasn’t fallen before the third round since in Melbourne since 2010 and was a semi-finalist here last year. Furthermore, she’s reached this stage of a Grand Slam 11 out of the last 12 times demonstrating how reliable she is at defeating lower ranked players. Makarova has won her first two matches in straight sets, beating Maddison Inglis (6-3 6-0) and Tatjana Maria (6-4 6-2).
Head-to-head record: Makarova leads Pliskova in their head-to-head, 2-0, with victories in Pattaya City (6-3 7-6(7), 2014) and Melbourne (6-4 6-4, 2015)
Analysis: This is another huge clash with the winner being the heavy favourite to reach the quarter-finals. As mentioned above, Pliskova will be looking to break new ground and having suffered the disappointment of losing to Makarova at this same stage last year, she will no doubt be hungry for success. She’s also playing pretty well and was in decent form to get past Goerges in straight sets. Pliskova’s probably the favourite despite the head-to-head record but Makarova continues to float under the radar. While she’s coming back from injury and hasn’t been as consistent as she was say a year ago, her game is solid in pretty much every department. I think this will be much closer than their match last year but I find myself still giving the nod with Makarova to prevail.
Prediction: Makarova d. Pliskova in 3 sets