Fixture: (1) Ashleigh Barty vs (6) Karolina Pliskova
Date: 23 April 2021
Tournament: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix 2021
Venue: Stuttgart, Germany
Category: WTA 500
Prize money: $565,530
Match timing: 2 pm local time, 5.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Eurosport
Ashleigh Barty vs Karolina Pliskova preview
After being out of action for nearly a year, Barty has come back to the tennis circuit with a bang. The World No. 1 started the season with a title win at the Yarra Valley Classic, picking up from where she left off in 2020. She then exited the Australian Open in the quarterfinals, but bounced back by successfully defending her Miami Open title.
In her first tournament on clay, at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, Barty made the quarterfinals. And in her debut at Stuttgart this week, the 2019 French Open champion put in a dazzling performance to thrash Laura Siegemund 6-0, 7-5.
Barty now comes up against former Stuttgart champion Karolina Pliskova, in a battle between two players who have held the No. 1 position. But while the Aussie has had a strong season so far, Pliskova has been a pale shadow of herself in 2021.
Having joined forces with Sascha Bajin at the start of the season, the World No. 9 has failed to deliver the goods so far. Her win-loss record for 2021 stands at a disappointing 9-6, which is well below what is expected of a player of her stature.
Pliskova has made the quarterfinals just once in her six previous events, and would be desperately hoping for a turnaround in fortunes on clay. She has won the titles at Stuttgart and Rome in the past, and would be keen to get back to rediscover that kind of form soon.
However, her first couple of matches in the German city have shown that Pliskova is still far from her best. The Czech needed three sets to see off both lucky loser Tamara Korpatsch and the struggling Jelena Ostapenko.
Ashleigh Barty vs Karolina Pliskova head-to-head
Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova have squared off six times so far, with the Australian boasting of a 4-2 lead in the head-to-head. Barty has won their last two meetings - the Miami final and the WTA Finals semifinals, both in 2019.
Their Stuttgart showdown will be their first-ever meeting on clay.
Ashleigh Barty vs Karolina Pliskova prediction
This will be a tough match-up for Karolina Pliskova, especially given her low confidence levels currently.
Pliskova is known for her serving prowess, and in her two matches so far she has hammered down 28 aces - including an impressive 21 against Jelena Ostapenko. But she has also undone some of the good work by spraying 13 double faults in her two rounds.
For Pliskova to make any impact against Barty, she needs her biggest weapon - her serve - to work. Barty on her part will look to use her variety and finesse, especially her slice-and-dropshot combination, to break Pliskova's rhythm and exploit her movement.
The World No. 1 herself served six aces in her opener against Laura Siegemund. More remarkably though, she won 100% of her first serve points. Barty has clearly adjusted well to the fast indoor conditions at Stuttgart, and will be eager to continue the good run.
With Pliskova having already played two three-setters, there's every chance of fatigue building up, titling the balance further in Barty's favor.
Prediction: Ashleigh Barty to win in two tight sets.