Pliskova into last eight, hungry for grand slam success
By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Karolina Pliskova reached the Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time on Monday and is keen to prove right those tipping her for grand slam success.
The 24-year-old Czech was a surprise package when she stormed to the U.S. Open final in September but arrived at Melbourne Park ranked fifth in the world after winning a warm-up tournament in Brisbane.
Only one of the players seeded above her, six-times champion Serena Williams, survived into the second week after the early exits of world number one Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep.
On Monday, Pliskova ended Australian interest in the singles draws with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Daria Gavrilova on Rod Laver Arena to set up a last-eight meeting with world number 79 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
"It was not my best but it's a win, so it counts," she said. "But for sure we all know I can play better. But it was enough. It was strange match, I would say, even from Dasha. I think she didn't also play really well today.
"Even I didn't feel my game that well, I still think it was sort of solid somehow."
The 2010 Australian Open girls champion could face Serena Williams in the semi-finals but said she was aware people were talking about her as a potential grand slam winner.
"I'm feeling confident, much better than I did in the grand slams before the U.S. Open. Everything is going my way now," she said.
"Also with my form coming into this year, with winning the Brisbane, I was really playing well there."
Pliskova said the extra expectation did put more pressure on her.
"I just don't want to think about it that much," she said.
"These things and this talking doesn't win me the matches."
"But I would like to prove that the people who are talking about me, they are not wrong," she added with a smile.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)