Karolina Pliskova’s debut tournament as the world number one came to an early end on Friday, as she was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup by former world number one Caroline Wozniacki. In a rain-prolonged match that took over five hours from when the women first took the court, the top seed struggled with consistency, blowing leads in the first and third sets, allowing the tenacious Wozniacki to battle back and clinch a spot in the semifinals with a 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-4.
Rain works to Wozniacki’s advantage
The two women took the court at their scheduled start time of 12:30 pm, only to have to leave the court after the warm-up as the rain began to pour just before the opening serve. Nearly two hours later, the match got underway with Pliskova racing out of the gate. She used her big power to set up break points on Wozniacki’s serve, converting the second when the Dane sent a backhand long. After holding to take a 3-0 lead, the top seed held a triple break point opportunity for a double break, but put three straight balls into the net. As Wozniacki held game point at AD-40, the skies opened up again, forcing the pair to retreat to the locker room.
The relay only lasted 15 minutes, and while Wozniacki would win the point she needed to hold, she quickly found herself in trouble again in her next service game. Once again she trailed 0-40 and this time, Pliskova did not even have a chance to blow it as the Dane double-faulted to surrender the break. The world number one looked to serve out the set at 5-1, but Wozniacki upped her game, crushing back-to-back winners from 0-15, including a clean return winner at 0-30, to set up triple break point. Pliskova would net a backhand to surrender the break.
As the pair returned their chairs, the rain started again. It would last fifteen minutes, although when they returned, only two points were contested before they were forced to wait another 15 minutes. When the match got back underway, two different women returned. Wozniacki was now rolling while Pliskova struggled to keep the ball in the court. After holding, the Dane would reclaim the second break and held to level the set at 5-5. Pliskova continued to struggle, finding herself down break point again in the 11th game, and while she saved the first with a smash, she would send a backhand wide on the second to give Wozniacki her first lead of the match. The 2010 Rogers Cup champion took full advantage, holding to love and closing out the set with an ace.
Pliskova grinds back
Wozniacki continued to use her consistency to chip away at Pliskova at the start of the second set, taking a 0-40 lead in the fifth game on the Czech’s serve. But the world number one re-found her power at the perfect moment, saving all three, two with clean winners. The Dane would have a fourth chance, but from 40-AD, Pliskova struck three straight unreturnable serves, including an ace at deuce, to hold. After netting a backhand at 30-30 in her next game, Pliskova was forced to save another break point, this time with a backhand winner down the line.
The Czech then began to turn the tables. She brought up a break point in the very next game, but Wozniacki came up with a big passing shot winner. Pliskova held a second, but failed to put her return in play. The set required a tiebreak, which the world number one dominated. The pair exchanged minibreaks and were level at 3-all, but after that, it was all Pliskova. The top seed reeled off four straight points to send the match to a deciding set.
Wozniacki’s persistence pays off
Pliskova seemed to have refound her confidence and rhythm in the third set, as she began to dominate the rallies they way she had early in the first set, pummeling Wozniacki around the court. In the fifth game, Wozniacki looked overwhelmed, falling behind 0-30, firing a backhand long to set up a break point, and then netting a backhand to hand the break to the world number one. With Pliskova’s powerful groundstrokes looking unflappable, the finish line finally seemed within reach.
But no one told Wozniacki. From 4-2 down, the Dane began to do what she does best, extend rallies and frustrate opponents. Every ball was coming back into play and it began to fluster Pliskova. Errors were creeping back into the world number one’s game and Wozniacki willed her way to a 0-40 lead in the eighth game. Pliskova would drive a forehand into the net on break point to level the set at 4-4. After Wozniacki held, the top seed suddenly found herself serving to stay in the match. More errors poured of her racquet and soon, Wozniacki was holding two match points. Pliskova would net her forehand to hand the sixth seed an epic comeback victory after two hours and 56 minutes of play, and more than five hours after they initially took the court.
By the numbers
Both women’s serve statistics were fairly strong, although Wozniacki was slightly better in all categories. She won 73 percent of her first serve points and 48 percent of her second serves, slightly ahead of Pliskova’s 68 percent of first serves and 45 percent of seconds. Despite being the less powerful of the two, Wozniacki had eight aces to Pliskova’s five, although the Dane also committed one more double fault, four to three.
Wozniacki awaits the winner between Sloane Stephens and Lucie Safarova in the semifinals.