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Pliskova powers past Haddad Maia at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The weather was hot at the Australian Open on Thursday, but Karolina Pliskova's match was a breeze, as the World No.6 from the Czech Republic rolled past Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil, 6-1, 6-1, to advance to the third round of the year's first major.

In the first meeting between the two players, the former World No.1 clinched victory in a swift 45 minutes. In the third round, she will play her compatriot Lucie Safarova, the No.29 seed, who beat Sorana Cirstea of Romania, 6-2, 6-4.

No.6 seed Karolina Pliskova raced to victory over Beatriz Haddad Maia on a scorcher of a day at the Australian Open.
"45 minutes, I think that’s my fastest match!" Pliskova exclaimed in her on-court interview after the match. "I think it’s very important to start the year well. I had a couple of matches in Brisbane, still doing well here, so I think it’s a good start."

The top-ranked Czech is one of six players who can claim the World No.1 ranking at the end of the tournament.  "I think it’s very close -- even all the matches that the seeds are playing, everything is really close, three-setters, so it’s really open," Pliskova continued. "I think everybody has a chance here."

Pliskova had a field day on Hisense Arena, hitting five aces, winning 79 percent of points on her first serve and 71 percent on her second delivery, and breaking the Brazilian's serve five times out of seven chances.

Haddad Maia, a powerful hitter herself, nearly matched Pliskova in winners (12 to the higher-ranked player's 14), but could only win 15 percent of points on her second serve, and converted neither of her two break points.

Haddad Maia opened the match with one of her four double faults, immediately defining the tone of the first set, as the World No.70 was unable to make her serve a weapon in the opening frame. Pliskova quickly broke Haddad Maia to start, and the Czech reeled off the first ten points of the match before the Brazilian could take one.

A hold by Haddad Maia finally got her on the board for 4-1, but Pliskova countered by holding for 5-1 with an ace, forcing Haddad Maia to serve to stay in the set. Haddad Maia faltered on numerous backhands in the next game, spotting Pliskova a one-set advantage in 22 minutes.

Pliskova began the second set in even more dominant fashion. After a love service hold, the Czech broke Haddad Maia for a 2-0 lead after running down a groundstroke and sending back a perfect lob, which Haddad Maia could only punch back into the net.

Haddad Maia started her next service game with consecutive double faults, and was broken once more to give Pliskova a 4-0 lead. In the next game, Haddad Maia had her only chances to break the Czech's serve, getting to double break point. On both of those points, however, Pliskova slammed a huge serve and swatted away the incoming return with a powerful forehand winner, eventually holding for 5-0.

The top-ranked Brazilian ended Pliskova's seven-game winning streak by holding at love and getting on the board in the second set, but in the next game, Pliskova, the 2017 WTA leader in aces, ended the match with her fourth and fifth aces of the day.

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