The quarterfinal of the BNP Paribas Open saw Karolina Pliskova get the better of Garbine Muguruza in two tiebreak sets after a thrilling 118 minutes of play, with the Czech extending her head-to-head record over the Spaniard to a surprising number of 6-1.
Pliskova steals the first set
The match started with Pliskova opting to serve first, which proved to be a smart choice as the Czech ran out to an early 1-0 lead after a comfortable hold of serve, hitting some strong serves to leave Muguruza helpless in the opening stages.
Muguruza’s slow start continued in her opening service game as Pliskova consistently became the more proactive player of both, taking the initiative to play the offense which was effective, keeping Muguruza at bay and unable to play her normal offensive baseline game. This caused the Spaniard to be broken just in the second game as Pliskova looked to be in great form, and gave the Czech the advantage and the early 2-0 lead.
The 2016 US Open finalist then managed to easily consolidate the break with yet another comfortable service hold, extending her lead to three games and looked to cruise through the first set. After an exchange of service holds, there was the next breakthrough as this time it was the 2016 Roland Garros champion who broke serve for the first time in the match, breaking to love as Muguruza started to play very aggressively on the return and made some incredible returns, returning level on serve all of a sudden despite looking down-and-out previously.
The next game saw Pliskova making an immediate reply by earning three break points, being third time lucky after Muguruza hit a strong forehand into the net, despite coming from 15-40 down to earn game point only to lose her serve for the second time in the match. Serving for the set, Pliskova faced the strong returns of the Spaniard as Muguruza broke serve for the second straight time with some excellent returns, allowing herself to stay in the set for at least one more game.
Muguruza finally had a comfortable hold of service as she found her first serves at the right time, and successfully secured the service hold as she returned level on the scoreboard for the first time in the match. All of a sudden, Muguruza found herself serving for the first set as she claimed a third consecutive service break to take the lead for the first time, with Pliskova suddenly uncharacteristically looking very vulnerable on her serve.
Despite both players being known for their strong serves and hard hitting game, there was a sixth break of serve in the set as Pliskova broke straight back to level the set and extended it into a tiebreak to decide the proceedings.
After getting the first of many mini breaks of the tiebreak just right in the first point of the tiebreak, Muguruza seemed to lose her way from there on as she conceded four consecutive points to open up a 4-1 lead and looked on course to close out the set. With some serving masterclass, Pliskova eventually closed out the first set on a strong ace after 50 minutes of play, being halfway from the victory.
Muguruza mounts improbable comeback but falters at last moment
A marathon game started the second set perfectly as Muguruza held her nerves to fend off a staggering amount of seven break points in the 15-points game, narrowly holding onto her service game to get a confidence-boosting start to the set. After a couple of service holds, the first break of serve finally came our way as Pliskova made the first breakthrough after coming from 30-0 down to break Muguruza’s serve, taking a lead of a set and a break.
Pliskova’s run continued when she consolidated the break of serve with a nervy service hold before breaking serve for the fifth time in the match, earning a formidable 5-2 lead and had a double break advantage, placing herself in an advantageous position to close out the match. However, that was when Muguruza started to mount a huge comeback as she first got back one of the breaks by breaking to love, lessening the deficit as she gained back some of the momentum.
A tough service hold for Muguruza saw Pliskova get to deuce twice, but was not able to ever earn a match point opportunity as the Spaniard showed some nerves of steel to consolidate the break and lessen the deficit to just one game. Owning two match points on her serve, Pliskova hit two consecutive unforced errors as Muguruza showed some incredible defensive skills, returning back to deuce.
Then, Pliskova seemed to have lost some of her focus as Muguruza got to break point and managed to convert after the Czech hit yet another forehand wide, returning level on the scoreboard all of a sudden as Muguruza started to play her best tennis.
With renewed confidence, Muguruza took the lead as she continued to play some world-class offensive tennis, taking a 6-5 lead and hoping to send the match into a deciding set. A crucial point won by Pliskova at 30-30 paved the way for her to hold serve, and bring the set into a second successive tiebreak to decide its winner.
Generally, the tiebreak was very tight in terms of the scoreboard, with not more than one single point separating both players until the very last moment. Serving down match point at 5-6, Muguruza was unable to deal with the pressure as she threw in a double fault to gift the match to Pliskova after 1 hour and 58 minutes, a match full of high-quality tennis.