MIAMI, March 29, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Neither rain nor Simona Halep’s quest to recapture the World No. 1 ranking could deny Karolina Pliskova from earning her first Miami Open presented by Itaú final. She came ready to play.
In a semifinal match plagued by multiple rain delays that backed up Thursday’s order of play into the early hours of Friday morning, the No. 5 seed Pliskova powered her way past No. 2 seed Halep, 7-5, 6-1, by winning 10 of the last 11 games. It was her 21st tour-level victory of the year, which leads the WTA.
.@KaPliskova holds off Halep and the rain, 7-5, 6-1!
— WTA (@WTA) 29. März 2019
Now, after lifting the trophy in Brisbane two months ago, Pliskova will try to win her 13th career title on Saturday afternoon against No. 12 seed Ashleigh Barty, who advanced over No. 21 Anett Kontaveit.
Going into their semifinal, Halep had owned Pliskova – and with a victory, she would have risen to No. 1 in the rankings, overtaking current No. 1 Naomi Osaka. The Czech had won just two of nine previous head-to-head meetings. So, it figured that the Romanian would rise to the occasion when they walked out on court Thursday evening to face off for the 10th time.
It didn’t happen.
Pliskova, who has reached at least the quarterfinals of each tournament she’s competed in this year, played with confidence and Halep didn’t, as evidenced by her inability to win points on her first serve (just 47 percent against Pliskova versus 66 percent the rest of the season). When big points were on the line, Pliskova won most of them – 17 of 25 – and she won five of seven close games. Otherwise, Pliskova was solid in her service games, placing 71 percent of her first serves in play, dropping just 18 points, and facing just two break points. She broke Halep’s serve five times throughout the one hour and 14 minute match.
“I think I played great the second set,” said Pliskova, during her post-match press conference. “Of course I think (Halep) could maybe do a little bit better. Maybe she was of course frustrated about the first set where it didn’t really go her way. I played some good shots, and it turned after the break. But, yeah, that’s how it is, and I’m happy with my level.”
Pliskova kept her unforced errors to a minimum – just 16 of them – and she hit 23 solid winners, many of them that kept Halep off balance. Meanwhile, the World No. 3 could only muster 14 winners and she committed 20 unforced errors.
“Of course the confidence, it helps so much,” said Pliskova, who has won five straight matches during the Miami fortnight and eight of her last nine overall. She and Barty have split their four previous encounters. “You know, when you win couple matches, then you just see the ball, you know, without even practicing or without even thinking about it. So I think it all is because of the matches.”
What they’re tweeting
After Karolina Pliskova’s semifinal victory over Simona Halep, her coach Conchita Martínez took to Twitter to express her joy for her pupil. Mind you, Martínez was a pretty good player in her own right, winning 33 singles titles and one Grand Slam. Martínez (@conchitamartinz) tweeted:
— Conchita Martínez (@conchitamartinz) 29. März 2019
No. 5 Karolina Pliskova d. No. 2 Simona Halep, 7-5, 6-1
No. 12 Ashleigh Barty d. No. 21 Anett Kontaveit, 6-3, 6-3.