Italian Open 2019: Pliskova outlasts Azarenka in three sets
Karolina Pliskova went the full distance during her quarterfinal and came out on top in the end at the BNL Internazionali D’Italia Friday. The fourth seed controlled the last two sets, outlasting Victoria Azarenka to win 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2 on Pietrangeli Court at Foro Italico in Rome.
This is Pliskova's first semifinal in Rome in five appearances.
This was the eighth meeting between the two players, with Azarenka leading 4-3. The Belarusian's super claycourt skills enabled her to record a win over Pliskova earlier this year, at Stuttgart, and that gave her confidence at the start of the match today.
Pliskova started on a nervous note, facing a couple of break points in her very first service game before holding. Azarenka on her part ensured that she was focused from the word go, and held without much trouble.
Pliskova was stretched again in the third, but the errors had started flowing from Azarenka's racquet now. A 10th unforced error handed the Czech the opening break.
Pliskova then consolidated with another hold to grab a 4-1 lead, with Wim Fissette being called out to help Azarenka. Fissette advised his charge to minimize the errors and keep working hard for her opportunities, and Azarenka did exactly that.
She hit her forehand well to hold serve before setting up a strong attack that gave her a break in the next gae. It was just after that Pliskova called down Conchita Martinez, who told her to focus on her defense in order to get back control.
She responded with a break in the eighth before she herself was broken back, which kept the two players a game apart. Serving to level the score at five all, Azarenka pushed Pliskova to the baseline before finishing at the net to hold.
A couple of strong service games took the set to a tiebreaker. Azarenka opened up a 3-1 lead with a mini-break in hand, courtesy a down-the-line winner. But the Czech gained back some lost ground by getting the mini-break back and bringing the score to 3-4.
She forced Azarenka to match her during the next couple of points before going down a set point at 5-6. A double fault gave the 29-year-old Azarenka the set after one hour and five minutes.
A break at the start of the second set was exactly what Pliskova wanted, and she gained control of the proceedings with a comfortable hold in the next game. Azarenka got on the scoreboard but it had now become a challenge to hold off the Czech.
The Belarusian gave a good fight during the 27-year-old’s service games but as the set went along, it was her opponent who was looking more comfortable. Pliskova added another break in the seventh before taking the set with a love hold; the set last for 45 minutes.
Remaining consistent was the biggest priority for both as they entered the third set, contesting the first game fiercely. Despite some errors on her serve, Azarenka got the hold to get into the lead in the decider.
But the Czech held too, and then threatened to break. The 29-year-old gave away a few points in the third game through errors and eventually got broken, handing Pliskova control of the match.
Azarenka found a way to get another service hold under her belt but the strength seemed to be running out of her body. Pliskova went on to take the next two games, getting a second break to practically seal the deal.
The Czech wasted no time clinching the victory, holding at love again to eliminate Azarenka in 2 hours and 26 minutes.
This is a strong run by Pliskova on a surface that is not entirely conducive to her game. She will next face Greece's Maria Sakkari, who defeated Kristina Mladenovic in the last quarterfinal of the day.