Karolina Pliskova went toe-to-toe against Victoria Azarenka in the second semifinal match at the BNP Paribas Open. Pliskova failed to grab her chances to take the first set before Azarenka clinched it in a tiebreak. The Czech came back strongly punishing Azarenka’s poor serves to take the second set and brought the match to a decider.
Pliskova who was looking for her first final of this magnitude fell short as Azarenka triumphed in the end. With her 7-6(1), 1-6, 6-2 victory, she sets up a mouth-watering clash with the world number one, Serena Williams.
Pliskova Starts Brightly Before Azarenka Comes Back And Takes Control
Pliskova chose to receive and that almost paid off dividends. With a shaky service start from Azarenka, Pliskova pounced onto a second serve to get first break point of the match. The Belarusian managed to save it with a one two punch and took five minutes to close the game. The Czech on the other hand was steady in her serving and held to love. Azarenka too seemed to settle in holding to love, keeping the match on serves at 2-1.
However, the Belarusian hit three double faults in a row in an awful game handing first break to Pliskova. The Czech consolidated her game with ease for a 4-2 lead. Azarenka whose return game is one of her strength was barely able to exploit with the Czech serving so well.
Her frustrations continued as a fifth double-fault gifted the Czech with set point. Pliskova missed the opportunity though overcooking her return off a second serve. The Belarusian was forced to save yet another set point this time coming up with a stinging forehand before digging out a hold to trail 4-5.
While Pliskova was serving for the set, the Belarusian got her first break points finishing an aggressive rally with an easy volley. The Czech saved one with a huge serve but Azarenka stepped up her level coming up with some good shots to get the break back and level the set 5-5. The Belarusian got herself back in the lead for 6-5 with a comfortable hold. Azarenka's pressure was unsettling Pliskova who was struggling to get her first serves in. The Czech somehow hung on to bring the set to a tiebreak.
Azarenka got the first mini break for 2-0 coming forward to the net to finish with a volley. The Czech’s serve failing to come to her aid as she trailed 0-3. Pliskova managed to stop the rot for 1-5 but the Belarusian proved too strong claiming the first set 7-6(1).
Azarenka’s Level Drops As Pliskova Finishes Strongly To Level The Match
The former world number one was riding the momentum and got two break points immediately. Pliskova though kept her resilience to save both. The Czech was forced to save another coming up with an ace at the perfect time. Azarenka lashed onto a second serve for her fourth break point in the game but Pliskova's serves came to her rescue at the big moments in a 10-minute game.
The Belarusian who had been doing well thus far played a poor game handing the early break to the Czech. Azarenka got herself on the board eventually for 1-3. However, the Belarusian’s serving woes continued as Pliskova got the double break racing to a 5-1 lead. The Czech aced her way to take the second set 6-1 sending the match to a decider.
Azarenka Finds Her Rhythm And Piles The Pressure To Win The Match
Azarenka shook off that poor second set to start the third set with a hold. And she got the luck of the net cord getting break point on Pliskova’s serve. The Czech responded with an ace before leveling the set 1-1.
Pliskova found herself in trouble facing break point serving at 1-2. It was a trademark save as she came up a huge serve once again. Relentless Azarenka kept knocking on the doors and reaped the benefits as she finally got the break for a 3-1 lead.
The Czech was still in the match though coming up with some good shots and kept within reach of the Belarusian. As the match passed the two-hour mark, Azarenka had a comfortable 5-2 lead.
Pliskova was serving to stay in the match but Azarenka created match point with some good return play. The Czech was helpless as Azarenka came up with a powerful return to clinch victory in slightly over two hours.
Overall, it was Pliskova who had the better statistics. She led the aces count with 17 to Azarenka's three. The Belarusian had a pretty dismal day hitting 10 double faults as well to Pliskova's 2.
The Czech, hammered 43 winners while the Belarusian was not too bad herself with 33 winners. Pliskova also hit lesser unforced errors.
The only department Azarenka was leading was in net points, winning 17 out of 20. Pliskova had almost no net play winning none of the three times she came to the net.
It was that close a match as in the end the Belarusian just won one more point, 93 to 92 to seal victory.