PLISKOVA AND BARTY SET TO DUEL IN MIAMI OPEN FINAL
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — 27-year-old Karolina Pliskova has been around the world playing professional tennis now for 10 years, and has attained some of its highest honors — becoming World No. 1 in July of 2017 and reaching the final of the 2016 US Open — and collected 12 singles titles in the process. She is widely regarded as one of the best players on tour — perhaps one of he best players ever that has never won a Grand Slam.
Compare that career with Ashleigh Barty, who at 22 turned professional only a year after Pliskova. Barty has only three singles titles to her name, and only just cracked the top 10 with her incredible performance in Miami this week. She recorded her best performance at a Grand Slam with her run to the quarterfinals of her home slam at the Australian Open in January of this year.
But the two will face off on Saturday sharing something in common — the 2019 Miami Open women’s singles championship would be the biggest of their careers.
Though Pliskova won in Cincinnati — a Premier 5 event — in 2016 and Barty took home the WTA Elite Trophy — an end-of-year tournament for players ranked from 9th to 19th — in 2018, neither player has a Premier Mandatory title under her belt.
Their career trajectories and accomplishments thus far are not the only contrasts between Pliskova and Barty. The former stands at 6’1” while the latter is only 5’5” — “5-foot-5 and a half,” technically.
Pliskova plays a game consisting of powerful serves and groundstrokes mixed with exceptional movement for a player her size, allowing her to grind out points when necessary.
“I'm doing fitness, I'm doing all these kind of movements,” Pliskova said about working on adding movement to her repertoire. “So it got improved. I have been running a lot this week with all those girls and a lot of dropshots I made. So I think I'm ready for some running, for some defense, as well.
On the flip side, Barty is one of the best movers in the game and consistently grinds out points, but can unleash forceful shots when called upon. Pliskova understands and accepts how Barty plays though, and feels ready to counter it.
“It's going to be not only about me this time, which actually now a lot of matches were about me more. So I need to accept when she's playing well, and I know I can beat her.”
Barty, for one, is not focused on her opponent’s game as much as she is her own.
“Karolina, we have had a few really good matches in the past,” the Australian said after her semifinal win. “I think it's split pretty evenly, actually. Played her most recently in the US Open in another big match… I think either way I get to go out there and try and play my brand of tennis, which is probably the most important thing for the matchup.”
Fortunately enough, both have seen similar players during their respective runs at the 2019 Miami Open. Pliskova overpowered a grinder with power in Simona Halep in the semifinals while Barty finally overcame Petra Kvitova — who is heralded for her size, power, and movement — in the quarterfinals.
Pliskova and Barty will go shot-for-shot and point-for-point to determine who will get to lift the Butch Buchholz Trophy. It will be a career-defining win for either who prevails — expect both to throw everything they have on Saturday in the women’s singles final of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú.