It was semi finals Saturday at the 2015 WTA Elite Trophy event held in the Guangdong Province city of Zhuhai, where Venus Williams, Roberta Vinci, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina were all bidding to end their season on a high note. Under a crescent moon on a warm Saturday evening, Williams defeated Vinci 6-2, 6-2, while Pliskova defeated Svitolina 6-3, 6-1. As a result, it was determined that Williams would meet Pliskova -- for the very first time -- in the showpiece on Sunday afternoon.
Williams Dismantles Vinci in Straight Sets
In the first semi final of the day, Venus Williams met Roberta Vinci. The last time these two women met, there was almost nothing to separate them. Williams came through in a three-set thriller last month in Wuhan, where she had to save a match point before taking the match in a third set tiebreak. This encountr on the other hand, was all Venus Williams.
After holding serve in the opening game, Williams broke to love before consolidating it to race out to an early 3-0 lead. After trading a pair of breaks and holds each, it was the seven-time Grand Slam champion who was beginning to find her range again, attacking everything Vinci threw at her -- even the Italian's first serve! In the end, it was Williams who was able to convert her second set point with a beautiful inside out forehand volley winner. The American was doing a great job with neutralizing Vinci's position, ensuring that the Italian didn't hit an excessive amount of slices that would usually trouble Williams.
The second set was similar to the first as Williams was able to draw first blood on the receiving end, breaking to open up an even bigger lead for herself. Despite Vinci's best efforts, she was unable to withstand Williams' power consistently. Since she was being placed so far behind the baseline, her American counterpart had a number of angles to work with, which she used to great effect. After trading breaks in the second and third games of the second set, Williams broke once more to open up a 3-1 lead. From there, it was all Venus. She served well, timed the ball beautifully and sent Vinci running from corner-to-corner. It was only a matter of time until Williams completed a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 win in an hour and seven minutes to put herself in the showpiece.
"Wow, first final here! I'm very honored to be in the first final in Zhuhai!" Williams said in her post-match on-court interview. "Today wasn't an easy match -- every game was really well-contested and she never gave me any points. She's had a great year. I felt like I really earned the win today."
"China's been good to me this year!" Williams said cheerfully. "I played well in Wuhan, and now another final here in Zhuhai, and I hope I can win one more match. It won't be easy -- I'm looking forward to it."
Pliskova Powers Past Svitolina
In the second semi final of the day, Karolina Pliskova faced Elina Svitolina in a battle of the WTA Rising Stars. Not to be outdone by Williams' clinical win over Vinci, Pliskova defeated Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 in just an hour and three minutes.
The Czech number two set the tone right from the word 'play' against her Ukrainian counterpart, hitting her spots well when serving and timing the ball beautifully off the ground. After securing an early break, Pliskova looked invincible on serve -- winning an incredible 92% of points behind her first serve in the opening set. As a result, the 23-year-old had no trouble keeping her opponent -- two years her junior -- at arm's length. After holding another service game comfortably, Pliskova broke for a second time to take the opening set 6-3.
The second set was even more lop-sided, and the result seemed to look ominous for Svitolina. Once Pliskova grabbed another early break to lead 3-1, the Ukrainian looked out of sorts. The Czech did well to maneuver her tired-looking opposition from corner-to-corner, which ultimately secured her a straightforward 6-3, 6-1 win. On match point, Pliskova hit a delightful drop volley that Svitolina was unable to run down, thus giving the 23-year-old a berth in the biggest final of her career to date.
To the spectators and viewers watching from around the world, this looked like an easy match for world number 13. To Pliskova, this match was anything but easy.
"It just looks like it's easy. It's not really easy," Pliskova said after the match. "She also played pretty well and defended well. But I had already two players in my group who played like that, so I was used to that. Before this match I played her in Wuhan and I knew what to expect."
The Final: Venus Williams - Karolina Pliskova
Venus Williams will meet Karolina Pliskova for the first time in the final WTA event of the season before the $125,000 WTA events start to round off the season. Both women have played well and both have just dropped one set all-week. Williams and Pliskova will both be well aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses, and will look to exploit them by dictating as many rallies as possible.