Karolina Pliskova is a former world #1 and Grand Slam finalist, but Wimbledon is the one Slam where she has failed to excel. Despite reaching at least a quarterfinal at the other Majors, this is her first time in the third round at the All England Club. Awaiting her is Mihaela Buzarnescu, the world #28. Buzarnescu is making her Wimbledon debut after reaching the fourth round in Paris, and is in the form of her life. But who will come out on top?
Pliskova and Buzarnescu have met just once before in their careers, facing off back in 2012. That match was also contested on grass, at the Wimbledon warm up event in Nottingham, and Pliskova advanced, albeit in a tight match. After dropping the first set, she fought back to win 4-6 6-3 7-5. At the time, both women were ranked relatively far outside the top 100. It would be reasonable to expect that this time around, the contest will be of a much higher quality.
Path to the third round
Pliskova was forced to work in order to eliminate British wildcard world #171 Harriet Dart in the first round. She scraped through the first set in a tiebreaker after overturning a significant deficit but lost the second, before she ultimately managed to prevail 7-6 2-6 6-1. She faced a tough second round match up against multiple Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, currently ranked 87th in the world after maternity leave, but advanced comfortably with a 6-3 6-3 win.
Buzarnescu had a difficult first round match up against world #32 Aryna Sabalenka, who just missed out on a seeding at this year’s event due to a combination of Wimbledon's unique seeding rules and the decision to award Serena Williams the 25th seed. The match was a close one, but the Romanian got through it with a 6-7 6-1 6-4 win. Following that she had an easier match up against world #201 Briton Katie Swan, and though the support was with the local, Buzarnescu won easily, 6-0 6-3.
How do they match up?
Pliskova plays with a whole lot of aggression and power, and generally likes to dictate the tempo of points. She has a strong serve, hits her groundstrokes hard, and isn’t afraid to come into the net. Expect her to look to dominate proceedings against Buzarnescu and for the Czech to look to bring her forehand into play as much as possible. But the Romanian is an experienced and intelligent player who won’t be easy to dominate.
Buzarnescu has had a career plagued by injuries, but is finally getting the opportunity to show what she can do at the age of 30. Arguably her best weapon is her intelligence of the court, and where Pliskova looks to bully opponents, Buzarnescu prefers to construct points in a more tempered fashion. But she is not without power, boasting a strong serve and uses the lefty serve out wide to open up the court effectively.
Pliskova will head into this match as favourite, but she will have her work cut out beating Buzarnescu. The Romanian has always had plenty of talent, and injury has been the main barrier to her showing it. Now injury free, she is in dangerous form, and she will be able to upset her more fancied opponent in this one. It will be a tight and entertaining match up, but Buzarnescu will advance through to her second consecutive Grand Slam fourth round with a three set victory.