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Tuesday, 4 July 2017 17:01 PM BST
Pliskova believes she can be threat on grass
No.3 seed Pliskova tots up the aces as she dismisses Rodina 6-1, 6-4 READ MORE

What a difference a year makes for Karolina Pliskova.

Ranked just inside the top 20 a year ago, the tall Czech had never made it past the third round of any of the four Grand Slam tournaments in 17 appearances despite being armed with one of the best serves on the women’s tour.

Then came the US Open, where she was runner-up to Angelique Kerber in the final. A quarter-final in Australia and a semi-final on her least favourite surface at Roland Garros showed she was no flash in the pan and she entered Wimbledon as one of the title contenders after winning the title last week in Eastbourne.

Up against Russian Evgeniya Rodina on No.1 Court, the No.3 seed continued her dominating form on the grass with an easy 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Minutes after her victory, she sounded this warning for the women’s draw: “If I serve well, I have a chance to beat everyone,” said Pliskova, who broke Rodina four times with crafty cross-court returns and well-placed ground strokes.

When asked what had made the difference in the past 12 months, Pliskova said: “It's been a year, so I'm older, I'm more experienced. Little bit everything changed. I changed my team. There is little bit of everything, you know. I improved a lot, especially with my movement on the court.”

Pliskova, one of four women who have a shot at knocking Kerber off the top spot in women’s tennis after Wimbledon, struck 35 winners including nine aces, taking her total for this year alone to a whopping 295. Her identical twin sister, the world No.44 Krystina, is second with 268 aces.

If I serve well, I have a chance to beat everyone

- Karolina Pliskova

To put that number in perspective: the 6ft 1in (1.86m) Pliskova fired off 530 aces last year, which was an astonishing 206 more than 23-time Grand Slam singles winner Serena Williams, who is widely considered to have the best serve in the women’s game.

With such a mighty weapon at her disposal, it is amazing to think Pliskova, 25, has never advanced beyond the second round of Wimbledon in five visits.

Given her fine form this year, who could stop her?

Up next is world No.87 Magdalena Rybarikova, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist in doubles who is on the comeback trail after two surgeries in the past year.

“It's the toughest draw in the second round so far for me on the Grand Slams,” said Pliskova, who has never played the Slovak before. “On grass I think she can be dangerous with her game. She can play a lot of slices, dropshots, serving well, also good at the net. Expecting a tough match, definitely.”

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