Pliskova plays down chances despite easy win

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Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova hits a return against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo during their women’s singles match on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GREG WOOD /

Fast-rising Czech star Karolina Pliskova played down her Australian Open chances Tuesday despite kick-starting her campaign with an ominous straight-sets rout.

Ranked at a career-high five in the world, the tall and tattooed 24-year-old proved too hot to handle for Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in blistering heat on Rod Laver Arena.

She showed no mercy in thrashing the 106th-ranked Spaniard 6-2, 6-0 to set up a second-round clash with Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova, who ended the hopes of Romanian Monica Niculescu.

Pliskova, a US Open finalist last year, said ahead of the opening Grand Slam of the year that the Melbourne Park surface suited her game and it was the tournament that offered her the best chance for a maiden Grand Slam title.

“Actually, I feel 100 times better than I felt before the US Open,” she said, having never gone beyond the third round at any Grand Slam before that.

“So this thing, like the scariness of the second week, is already gone.

“Doesn’t mean that I’m going to be there for sure now every Grand Slam in the second week. It can happen that I still lose, but definitely I feel better with this pressure than before.”

She came into the event in form after her victory at the lead-up Brisbane International, and has tasted success in Melbourne before — winning the girl’s singles title in 2010.

But she played down her chances over the next fortnight.

“I don’t feel like I would be favourite on this tournament or any Grand Slam so far,” she said. “I think there are still better players than me. Me, I don’t want to put the pressure on myself.”

She traded blows early on against Sorribes Tormo, who was making her Australian Open debut, before grabbing the first break in the fourth game when the Spaniard slammed a backhand into the net.

Pliskova didn’t look back as she turned the screws, breaking again for 5-1 before losing her focus and allowing Sorribes Tormo to stay in touch by breaking back.

But it was only a temporary blip as she took the set on a love service game next up.

Power-server Pliskova, last year’s WTA aces leader, then raced through the second set in just 29 minutes as her opponent wilted.

“I was a little bit nervous in the beginning, made a lot of mistakes on my forehand, especially first serves,” she said.

“But overall, I think in the second set it improved a little bit, the game. But not the best, I would say.”

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