WTA Tour

Pliskova conquers rain and a giant-killer

2015-06-20 19:02
Karolina Pliskova (AFP Photo)

Birmingham - Karolina Pliskova, the tall, steep-serving Czech with the tattoos and an increasing penchant for grass, beat both the rain and the week's greatest giant-killer to reach the final in Birmingham on Saturday.

Pliskova's 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) much-interrupted win over Kristina Mladenovic, the unseeded French player who had downed three seeds, also took her to a fourth final of the year and close to a place in the top 10 for the first time.

The 23-year-old nevertheless needed to produce some brave blows in saving three set points during the second set tie-break, and to summon much resilience in dealing with three rain delays.

They occupied two hours and 20 minutes in total in an encounter with just one hour and 20 minutes playing time.

"I was used to all that because I had it in my first match," said Pliskova, who had to complete two matches on Thursday in order to catch up with the schedule.

As if in retribution for being so defied, the rain suddenly returned with extra force, causing ground staff to heave the court covers all over Pliskova's feet and bringing the victory interview to a premature end.

However Pliskova had already give an accurate summary of what happened.

"I was shaking," she said. "She (Mladenovic) played better in the second set than the first set, and a third set would have been very tough.

"The end of the match was key. I was trying to stay calm and to centre on every point and to hold serve. My last return was a bit lucky."

That was a forehand which connected so truly with a heavy Mladenovic serve that it carried unstoppable momentum and took Pliskova to match point at seven points to six in the tie-break.

She converted it with one strident blow, her sixth ace of the match. It was one of many rally-influencing first serves, 88 percent of which led to points won.

Mladenovic's performance contained similar elements to those which accounted for the top-seeded Simona Halep the previous day -- a rather slow start, gradual improvement in the timing of her ground strokes, and an admirable obstinacy when it came to the big points.

Unfortunately her early break of serve in the second set was countered immediately by Pliskova, and disconcertingly she had to begin her sequence of three match points at 6-3 in the tie-break with drizzle beginning to return for a fourth time.

Two of them brought fine winners from Pliskova and the third saw Mladenovic follow up a decent first serve with a ground stroke which sailed over the baseline -- a mistake which may linger in the mind for a while.

Despite this she should be rewarded with a leap in the rankings from her current 43 to somewhere beyond her career-best 36.

Pliskova meanwhile was due to reach the top 10 if Angelique Kerber, the fourth-seeded German, failed to win the other semi-final against her compatriot Sabine Lisicki, the former Wimbledon finalist. The Czech admitted she would be watching.

Read more on:    karolina pliskova  |  tennis

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