PLISKOVA ROARS PAST HALEP TO REACH MIAMI OPEN FINAL
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova is on her way to her first Miami Open final at the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú. In the early morning hours of Friday, she capped off a comeback win against No. 2 seed Simona Halep, 7-5, 6-1.
Down a break in the first set at 3-5 after returning from the first rain delay that beset the day at Hard Rock Stadium, the Czech heavy-hitter fired off 23 winners en route to taking ten of the next eleven games. Pliskova knew her path to victory relied on her powerful ball-striking abilities and fearsome serve.
“I need to serve well,” the 27-year-old said after the match, “but in every match I need to serve well. I think I have the better serve… It’s gonna be about, you know, small chances, but I still have to go for it. I have to serve well, play aggressive, and there’s gonna be chance.”
Serve well she did, landing 71 percent of her first serves and winning 27 out of 36 of those points, compared to Halep who only won 47 percent of her points on first serves.
Halep faltered with several chances to either consolidate a lead or stay level, most egregiously up 5-4 and just a hold away from going up a set-to-love, and then down 5-6 with a chance to force a tiebreak for the opening set. She was broken both times, including squandering two game points serving for the tiebreak.
“I played a close game,” Pliskova said of the last game in the first, “And I just believed. Because I had actually a lot of chances on her serve. I don’t think she was serving that good. I was putting a lot of pressure on her second serve.”
In the second, Pliskova routed Halep and raced out to a commanding 5-0 lead. Her run of nine straight games won was ended there, however, first by the second rain delay of the match and then by the first easy hold for Halep of the night to make it 5-1. That hold was symbolic more than anything, as Pliskova served the match out for her first berth in the final of the Miami Open and a Premier Mandatory event.
It has been an incredible start to the year for the 2016 US Open finalist and former World No. 1, as she picked up a title in Brisbane, reached the semis in Melbourne, and hasn’t gone out before the quarterfinals at any event she has entered.
Up next for Pliskova is No. 12 seed Ashleigh Barty, with the two splitting their four head-to-head matches — the most recent a 6-4, 6-4 win by Pliskova in the fourth round of the 2018 US Open. If she can claim the title Saturday, it will be the biggest of her career and she will vault up to No. 2 in the world. But she knows Barty is not going to be an easy out.
“I think she has a completely different style than these girls which I played,” Pliskova said, referencing Barty’s finesse/power combination. “So she’s also trying to go for some winners. She has a slice backhand, she has a good serve, so she can move pretty well on the court, so she understands the game well… So I need to accept when she’s playing well, and I know I can beat her. I played great in New York against her, so I try to repeat it.”