Rusty play, difficult draws and long drawn three-set battles on the court have headlined the opening week of the 2020 season for two of the top WTA stars.
Japan's Naomi Osaka and Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova are all set to play for a spot in the Brisbane International final on Saturday, but their path to this stage of the tournament has been anything but simple.
When the draw was first announced, it was the top half of the draw that looked packed with power players, but dominant displays from the likes of Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys (who round off the semifinal lineup) surprised the rather straightforward script there.
While Kenin and Maria Sakkari took sets off of a rather solid-looking Osaka in the opening two sets, Ajla Tomljanovic and Riske gave a less-than-stellar Pliskova major scares.
Arguably though, these early bouts only strengthen Osaka and Pliskova, who are now are playing much better than they were at the start of the tournament, having been battle-hardened.
Which one these women triumphs over the other remains to be seen, but the match practice and extra hours on court will definitely come in handy in big match situations.
For Saturday, however, it will come down to the serving stats that have remained consistent for both women, even in the face of adversity. Whoever manages to deliver strong numbers in the department will have a definitive edge in this one.
Prediction: Pliskova to win in three sets.Published 10 Jan 2020, 17:48 IST