23 January 2017 | Alex Sharp

Daria Gavrilova’s home run at the Australian Open has been curtailed in the fourth round 6-3 6-3 by fifth seed Karolina Pliskova.

The Czech, who had prevailed in the previous two meetings with the Australian, was particularly impressive on return to disrupt the rhythm of the crowd favourite, and struck 27 winners en route to victory.

Gavrilova had enjoyed a breakout run to the last 16 in 2016, but couldn’t quite go one step further this year at Melbourne Park, up against a player many are tipping for the title.

“Well definitely I have big confidence already coming from winning (the title) in Brisbane, feeling great,” reflected Pliskova. “I’m playing some good tennis here and I’m excited to be in my first Australian Open quarter-final.

“It was especially tough tonight, playing an Australian girl at home. It’s never easy but I was fighting for every point.

“Not my best performance. But it’s a win, so it counts. But for sure we all know I can play better. It was strange match, I would say, even from Dasha. I think she didn’t also play really well today.

“The conditions were definitely different compared to the other days, which was much warmer, more humidity, it was faster. Even with the roof closed, was everything like little bit different.”

The Czech appeared in no mood to repeat her marathon third-round exertions against Jelena Ostapenko, and was brutally ruthless from the start.

Punchy returns in a seven-minute opener immediately gifted Pliskova the initiative. An ace on her first serve of the match set the tone, before a double break was established as a Gavrilova drive volley sailed long.

The Aussie No.2 was undeterred and broke back for 5-3, Pliskova completely missing the ball with a wild backhand swing.

However Pliskova re-grouped and put relentless pressure on return once again to head back to the changeover a set up, having struck six aces and 12 winners.

A double fault and forehand cannoning wide of the mark gifted Gavrilova a head start. The returner remained on top as two clattering forehand winners for Gavrilova couldn’t halt the Brisbane International champion restoring parity.

Pliskova made it four games on the spin with her blistering groundstrokes finding the angles to do the damage.

Gavrilova managed to fend off a break point to hold for 2-4, but couldn’t unlock the key to Pliskova’s serve again. The towering Czech squandered two match points with wild forehands before sauntering into a maiden Australian Open quarterfinal with an ace.

“I think I’ve improved a little bit in everything since the US Open final and I’m now more confident in the Grand Slams, I think I’m playing much better than last year,” declared Pliskova. “Everything is going my way right now.”

Pliskova will meet 34-year-old Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the last eight, whose stirring run in Melbourne continued on Monday when she eliminated American qualifier Jennifer Brady in straight sets.

“I think I’m a better player than last year,” insisted a determined Gavrilova. “Overall it’s been a pretty good tournament. I backed up what I managed last year and not many players can do that. I should be pretty positive about last week.

“But I’m also looking forward to improving a few things. It’s a good sign that I got that far, and I can still get so much better.

“I think she (Pliskova) can win it,” revealed Gavrilova. “but I don’t want to jinx her!”