Japan's Naomi Osaka falls to the court while playing Britain's Johanna Konta during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Kin Cheung
January 18, 2017

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has carried her title-winning form in the warmup tournament into the season's first major, dropping just four games en route to the third round at the Australian Open.

Pliskova was leading 6-0, 4-0 against Anna Blinkova in the second round on Thursday before the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, ranked 189th, held serve and later held up her arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. Pliskova finished off the 6-0, 6-2 in less than an hour - she won her first-round match 6-2, 6-0.

''I've improved a little bit since the first round,'' said fifth-seeded Pliskova, who won the Brisbane International title earlier this month. ''It's always good to be in the zone - it can always be a bit better.''

Pliskova has reached the third round for three straight years at Melbourne Park, which equaled her best previous run at a Grand Slam until she reached the final in New York last September. She beat Serena Williams in the semifinals at the U.S. Open before losing to Angelique Kerber.

She will next play Jelena Ostapenko, who beat No. 31 Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1.

Johanna Konta, who made a surprising run to the semifinals in her debut Australian Open last year before losing to eventual champion Kerber, advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Naomi Osaka.

Konta, voted the WTA Tour's most improved player of 2016 after moving from 48th to 10th in the rankings, opened the season by winning the Sydney International title last week.

In other early results, No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova was leading 6-2, 3-2 when Sara Errani retired from their match with an injured leg.

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