Alycia Parks stuns Karolina Pliskova in Ostrava opener
How's that for a statement? In her first-ever match against a Top 20 player, 21-year-old American Alycia Parks stunned former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the first round of the Agel Open in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Parks, who came through qualifying and is currently ranked No. 144, upset the two-time Grand Slam finalist in Round 1 of the WTA 500 event, 6-0, 7-6(2).
"I'm very grateful and thankful to get through the match today," Parks said. "I wasn't even scared, I was more confident with how I've been playing my previous matches."
Unseeded in qualifying, Parks didn't drop a set against No. 12 seed Oksana Selekhmeteva, a two-time junior Grand Slam doubles champion, and former Top 100 player Anna-Lena Friedsam to set up her shot at Pliskova in just the seventh WTA main draw of her young career. Parks earned not only her best-ever win by ranking (Pliskova is currently ranked No. 19), but just her third career win against a player ranked in the Top 50.
Parks' best prior win by ranking came this June, and was a straight-sets triumph against then-No. 46 Zheng Qinwen on grass in Berlin.
Parks blitzed two-time Grand Slam finalist Pliskova in 88 minutes thanks in part to clean hitting from the first ball. In a 27-minute opener, she hit 15 winners to Pliskova's one, and never faced break point. In the second set, she won four straight games from a break behind at 3-1, but closed out victory with a dominant tiebreak after failing to serve out the upset at 5-3.
A big-server by reputation—last summer, Parks hit the joint-fastest serve in US Open history—Parks landed 62% of her first serves in victory, and won 72% of those points. The serve has been a cornerstone of the Floridian's game for her first days on court, she says, thanks to the influence of her father Michael.
"[The serve] comes very natural for me, I want to thank my dad because he's the one who taught me," Parks said. "He always gave me a rhythm, kind of like dance, one-two. So that always stuck in the back of my mind."
But, against Pliskova, Parks' ground game was just as solid. Overall, she hit a staggering 35 winners to Pliskova's six, and broke the one-time ace leader of the WTA tour five times on five chances. Pliskova entered the match third-best in aces this season, but struck none in defeat. Instead, Parks made the Czech pay when she missed a first serve: She won 16 of 19 points played off of Pliskova's second serve.
After earning a win against a Top 20 player, Parks will now need to score a Top 10 victory should she want to reach the first WTA quarterfinal of her career. Her next opponent is world No. 7 Maria Sakkari of Greece.
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