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Porsche Tennis Grand Prix: Pliskova slides into semis in three sets

Rudy Martinez
ANALYST
Feature
222   //    28 Apr 2018, 04:15 IST

Porsche Tennis Grand Prix Stuttgart - Day 5
Karolina Pliskova

Karolina Pliskova earned a personal best at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix early Saturday morning. With a battle on her hands against Jelena Ostapenko, the Czech powerhouse overcame an early deficit playing neck and neck before winning 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 on Centre Court at Porsche Arena in Stuttgart. It was the first time Pliskova advanced beyond the semifinals in the tournament and a win that would move her up the rankings next week.

The two split wins against one another last season with Ostapenko getting the best of the Czech number one in straight sets at Singapore. While Pliskova holds the series lead 2-1 her difficulty with the clay courts has her at a disadvantage playing against the recent French Open champion. While she has gained more time on the court, the aggressive style of the Latvian will prove difficult with so much at stake for both sitting a rank above the other.

The Latvian was finding her niche very well serving strong to open the match before breaking the former number one by breaking her serve. Her strengths on the court allowed her to dictate a 3-0 lead taking Pliskova’s game out of commission.

Showing no signs of frustration, the Czech pulled together her service game in the fourth and hunted down two more victories to level the score at three all. The second serve of Ostapenko’s was the factor of her losing control of the score landing two of six so far.

She rallied to put an end to Pliskova’s turn of regulating the set and regain back control with a break followed by a serve that gave her a shot at the set first. She was blocked from getting the set over and done with as Pliskova was ready to go to great lengths to change the course of the set. It led them to extra frames where it was the Latvian in the lead.

With some effort against Plsikova’s service, the 20-year-old broke the world number six to win 7-5 in 42 minutes. The Latvian nailed down 17 winners against Pliskova will maintaining 69 percent on the first serve. Despite having double the number of errors and three double faults, the ability to win more points overall was the factor to her being up a set.

The second began with both on serve through two before an early break chance came in Pliskova’s hands. Ostapenko avoided faltering early to secure the ground back for a 2-1 hold.

The former world number one answered with a win in the fourth staying at level terms with the young Latvian before breaking her in the fifth in an attempt to push out ahead. Ostapenko responded with a break of her own before achieving the match’s first serve to love to lead in the late stages of the set.

After Pliskova recovered the gap she again found herself playing for survival as she played to stay alive in the match. She did just that sending them onward with Ostapenko to act first where she double faulted giving Pliskova plenty of breathing room.

She wasted no time getting to 40-0 on the Latvian earning a chance to end the set herself and force a decider. With the ball in her hands, the 26-year-old got the win she needed to force Ostapenko into a third set that would determine the second semifinal.

The set took 43 minutes where Pliskova made a big difference landing six aces and 11 winners. Ostapenko had 17 winners and four aces but the second serve was struggling with unforced errors that led to her letting the match win slip away. She got another try at it opening with a service win in the first with Pliskova following suit.

She took the lead in the third putting together some good body shots that had the ball return difficult for Ostapenko. Her opponent put aggression in her break opportunity that paid off creating a new pace. They went like that through the fifth where Pliskova had the lead and backed up the break with stunning defence against the world number five.

Ostapenko found herself down two games but recovered one on serve despite having a limp in her leg. She was unwilling to give in to pain as the fourth seed fought but fell back two games with Pliskova’s first attempt at the match.

The Czech made some mistakes and tried to get a point while on the return side but closing things out weren’t happening on the Latvian’s watch. It was now up to the 20-year-old to survive Pliskova’s service game who put together a great return rally using both sides of the racket.

She continued landing winners across court that had Pliskova needing two to force deuce. She got it done with an ace down the line for her 14th of the match. After four breaks and an overturn call later, the former number one walked away with victory ending a long night on court that took 2 hours and 18 minutes to finish.

With more points available and a finals spot within reach for Pliskova, she will try and get there facing Anet Kontaveit on Saturday. 

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Rudy Martinez
ANALYST
A writer with eight years experience in sportswriting. He specializes in the National Hockey League, WTA Tennis and both summer and winter Olympic sports.
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