World number six Karolina Pliskova is carrying on where she left off in 2017, and the 2016 runner-up from Flushing Meadows, was leading a break in the final set against world number one Angelique Kerber but unfortunately, she was unable to hold on, nonetheless, the Czech qualified for the WTA Finals in Singapore for the first time in her career.
Meanwhile, Pliskova's opponent in the semifinals of the Brisbane International, Elina Svitolina capped off 2016 by defeating Kerber in Beijing, and the sixth seed ended 2016 ranked inside the top 16 for the first time in her career. The Ukranian number one also defeated Serena Williams at the Rio Olympics despite being thrashed by the American at the French Open a few months prior.
Pliskova's route to the semifinals
The third seed began her first match of the year against Yulia Putintseva, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open last year, and it was a professional straightforward victory for the Czech which could have proved to be more difficult, coming through unscathed, 6-3, 6-1. In the second round, Pliskova was up against American qualifier Asia Muhammad, registering another victory in straight set, 6-1, 6-4. The third seed had her toughest test of the tournament against eighth seed Roberta Vinci, in the battle of the last two US Open runner-ups, and the Czech dropped her first set of the tournament but came through in style, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Svitolina's route to the semifinals
The 2015 French Open quarterfinalist was dealt with a tough draw, facing off with the reigning Olympic Gold medalist Monica Puig in the first round but the sixth seed came through that contest in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Svitolina faced off with another French Open quarterfinalist in Shelby Rogers, and the world number 14 defeated the American in three sets, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5. Furthermore, Svitolina's tough draw continued by playing the world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals for the second time in three years. The Ukranian continued her impressive record against Kerber by defeating her for the fourth time in nine meetings.
The two seeded players have met on four occasions with Pliskova winning all four encounters. The third seed won their first two encounters on clay, and their first meeting was on the ITF circuit in 2011 in the Czech Republic with Pliskova prevailing 6-4, 6-3, and she followed this up in the semifinals in Nurnberg in 2014, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Pliskova extended her lead in their rivalry by winning their next two meetings on hard courts in the third round in Wuhan, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 and in the semifinals of the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, 6-3, 6-1 both in 2015.
Both players possess a big first serve and they like to dictate play from the baseline, and both are good returners. On the other hand, Svitolina is a better mover around the court than Pliskova, and she will be able to track down plenty of Pliskova's balls, however, Pliskova has dominated their head-to-head rivalry, and it is vital that Pliskova keeps the points short because if they engage in long rallies, Svitolina is fitter out of the two players and will come out on top.
Another thing that both players have in common is that they are no longer working with the coaches they had in the 2016 WTA season, Pliskova's now paired with David Kotyza, the coach who brought success to her compatriot Petra Kvitova's game and two Wimbledon titles came along with that, therefore, Pliskova is hoping for similar success with Kotyza, and considering that she hasn't been beyond the third round of the Australian Open, she will be hoping that Kotyza will be able to help her change that. Svitolina ended her partnership with Iain Hughes at the end of the season but the seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin is still on board as a member of her coaching team.
This is the second of the two women's semifinal matches scheduled to take place on Friday, and this will be the final match in the Pat Rafter Arena at not before 9 pm local time, following the conclusion of the Milos Raonic-Rafael Nadal encounter. The winner of this semifinal match will play French Open champion and fourth seed Garbine Muguruza or unseeded Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in the final.
Prediction: Pliskova in three sets