WTA Nottingham: Karolina Pliskova defeats Alison Riske to claim the title

First seed and wild card Karolina Pliskova confirmed the predictions and claimed the first grass title of her career at the Aegon Open Nottingham, a tournament of the WTA International-level. Pliskova defeated American Alison Riske in straight sets, after a very close match ended with a 7-6(8), 7-5 scoreline. A huge help from her first serve and a better consistency showed on crucial points had been what turned the match's momentum in the Czech’s favor, granting her the first title of 2016.

Pliskova Saves Six Match Points To Claim The First Set

It had been after two hours of delay due to rain before the play finally began on Centre Court. After an exchange of holds, it was Pliskova who took early control of the match, gaining three break points; saving all of them hadn’t been enough for Riske, as the Czech obtained a fourth one and eventually converted it, taking the lead.

A dead net cord on the sixth game gifted Riske the chance to win the break back; the American didn’t waste it and leveled off the set with a forehand winner.

None of the players got any more chances to take the lead until the tenth game, in which Riske put pressure on Pliskova while the Czech was serving to stay in the set, trailing 4-5. She failed to convert every one of the three set points she earned, and after Pliskova escaped and held, two comfortable holds from both players right after led the set to a tiebreak.

Riske gained three more set points during a tiebreak in which none of the players managed to make a difference with the serve. Again, the American failed to convert any of them, and Pliskova eventually prevailed, closing the tie-break with a 10-8 scoreline on her second set point.

Alison Riske of USA in action during her match against Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic on day seven of the WTA Aegon Open on June 12, 2016 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Jon Buckle/Getty Images

Pliskova Battles Back From A Break Down And Wins The Match

Despite all the chances missed, the American started to play aggressive at the beginning of the second set and was soon rewarded as the first to strike, taking the lead in the fifth game before consolidating it right away. She kept putting pressure on the Czech’s serve and good defense from Riske and struggles on serve from Pliskova gave the American three chances for a double-break advantage. A recovered consistency on serve saved the game for the Czech, who hit an ace and three powerful first serves to eventually hold and stay in the set. 

The missed chances seemed to weigh on Riske, as the American dropped her serve to 15 right away and Pliskova drew level at 4-all. She immediately recovered, though, and broke Pliskova’s serve again, converting her second break point with a crosscourt return that landed on the line and gaining the chance to serve for the set. In the next game, the American had another set point but the perfect balance between defense and attack from Pliskova saved the opportunity, and the 24-year-old’s powerful returns granted her to break back and level off to a 5-5 scoreline.

In the eleventh game, the American started aggressive, pushing on Pliskova’s second serve but failing to take the lead. One more time, it was the first serve which helped the Czech, who held the game to take the lead for the first time since the beginning of the set, and was within one game of the title.

In the final game, a double fault from Riske gifted Pliskova a match point, which the Czech converted right away with a crosscourt shot to win the match with a 7-6(8), 7-5 scoreline after an hour and 58 minutes of play.

 Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic poses with Elena Baltacha Trophy with Alison Riske of USA on day seven of the WTA Aegon Open on June 12, 2016 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Jon Buckle/Getty Images for LTA)

With today’s victory, Karolina Pliskova chased away the ghost of her 2015 season, in which she reached six finals overall, but claimed just one title, at the Prague Open. The best result of the year for the Czech prior to Nottingham had been a semifinal in Indian Wells, where she lost to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in three sets.

Pliskova has ended Riske's nine-matches winning streak on grass; the American had already won an ITF title in Eastbourne the week before the tournament.

Both players were scheduled to play at Aegon Classic in Birmingham next week. Pliskova has already a place in the main draw, while Riske has been forced to withdraw from the tournament since she was set to play her first two qualifications matches today. Andreja Klepac took her place in the qualifying draw.