“I don’t have the power to just win the short rallies.”
Daria Gavrilova’s admission, which came an hour after her Australian Open exit, was brutally honest.
And unfortunately for the 22-year-old, there were plenty of short rallies in Karolina Pliskova’s convincing 6-3 6-3 triumph on Monday evening.
The fifth seed from the Czech Republic struck the ball fiercely all night, crunching 27 winners and 12 aces to book a spot in the last eight.
Gavrilova needed to turn the match into a scrap if she was to progress, but, for Pliskova, this was about as comfortable as fourth-round wins at a grand slam get.
The 22nd seed entered the contest as the last remaining Aussie in the Open singles but centre court was only half-full when things got underway.
The first game suggested a marathon three-set affair was on the cards – Gavrilova was broken, eventually, after four deuces and nearly eight minutes.
The rest of the match took just 65.
Gavrilova later acknowledged how vital that first game was when quizzed by The New Daily.
“I said to myself, ‘Yeah, that’s a long game, like, dig in,” she said.
“I felt like it was an important game.”
Pliskova, buoyed by the early break, took charge, striking the ball cleanly and consistently.
At the other end, Gavrilova was not doing the basics right, blasting several volleys wide, one of which led to her throwing her racquet, while she also battled on first serve, a problem that plagued her all night.
Soon enough, Pliskova led 5-1, and although her opponent showed tenacity to fight back, the first set was already lost.
Gavrilova needed to come out firing in the second set – if only to wake the crowd up at a steamy Rod Laver Arena.
And a break in the first game of the second set did just that, with Pliskova’s errant forehand giving them hope.
It didn’t last long, though, as Pliskova responded immediately by winning the next four games, including two breaks, with a stunning backhand return down the line showing the players were on different levels.
Gavrilova fought on and gave herself a chance of a break to make it 4-5 when she took it to deuce on Pliskova’s serve.
But Pliskova came to the net and produced a winner before an ace sealed a terrific victory.
For Gavrilova, who was also beaten in the fourth round at Melbourne Park last year, this was one match too many.
She played three successive three-setters to make it into the second week, spending six hours and 32 minutes on court in the process.
Pliskova was far fresher and now meets Croatian veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the quarter-finals having lost just one set at the Open.
Ominously, she said after this win that “we all know I can play better”. Lucic-Baroni hopes not.
Gavrilova, who pockets $A220,000 for reaching the last 16, said that it was “pretty cool” to be the last Aussie left in the singles.
But now she’s out of the tournament, she will be back to the practice courts.
And you can bet short rallies will be on the agenda.
Also on Monday
Just after Gavrilova’s defeat, Rafael Nadal toppled Gael Monfils in four entertaining sets, 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4.
Nadal told the Seven Network afterwards: “I am very, very happy. Gael is a special player. He is able to play unbelievable shots … I started well.”
He will now play Canadian Milos Raonic, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-4 6-1.
David Goffin set up a quarter-final meeting with Grigor Dimitrov after both came from behind to win in four sets. Dimitrov’s win ended the run of Novak Djokovic’s surprise conqueror, Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams’ quest for a record-breaking 23rd grand slam singles title in the Open era gathered pace after she beat Barbora Strycova 7-5 6-4.
Williams will play Brit Johanna Konta, who thrashed Ekaterina Makarova 6-1 6-4.