Karolina Pliskova and Serena Williams met back in September during the US Open quarterfinals, and it was one-way traffic for the American in New York. Pliskova was on a hot streak of victories and probably played her best match in sometime with her win over Garbiñe Muguruza in the fourth round.
After going up a set and a break, Serena looked out of it, but her champion's spirit, helped her break back and go on a huge run of games, taking over the match. Serving up 5-1 with match point, a foot fault then a rolled ankle turned the tide of the match. Pliskova reeled off the final six games to win 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 to earn an Australian Open semifinal showdown with Naomi Osaka.
Czeching It Off
After struggles in her opening service game, the 16th-seeded Czech began to find her groove. She found the corners, the lines, hit behind Serena, everything was working for the former US Open finalist. Pliskova chose to warmup on the side where the sun would be the harshest during the match, and that played a massive role in her early break of serve after the American struggled to serve on that side.
The unforced error tally began to pile up for Serena who faced triple break point. Serena forced a couple of unforced errors out of the Czech to hold off another tight game. Pliskova was dominant in all aspects of her game (32 points before her unforced error and dropping only three points in her last four service games of the set) which led to a 6-4 first set.
The fifth game proved to be massive with Serena and Pliskova going toe-to-toe. The Czech was tracking down everything that was thrown at her from shots down the line and cross-court to short slices. Pliskova set up her second break point after a lob left Serena in an awkward position to try and smash the ball.
The American missed it then dumped a slice into the net giving Pliskova a 3-2 lead. Serena played her best return game of the set, going up 0-30 followed by a forehand winner. Three break points for the 16th seed, and she took it on her first try.
Serving to stay in the set, Serena's level began to rise on her return game. Five deuces as the two battled to see who could get through this key tenth game. In the end, it was Serena who sent it to a final set.
After having a chance to take early control of the set at 0-30, Pliskova let it slip by and Serena made her pay later on. The fourth game saw Serena break at 15 after a cross-court forehand winner. She followed that up by consolidating quickly, dropping only one point to extend her lead to 4-1.
After her break at love in the last set, the switch was completely switched for Serena who really turned it on. A forehand return winner on the second serve put the 23-time major champion one game away from a US Open rematch.
A Twist In The Tale, Literally
A foot fault call on match point provided another twist in the tale with Serena getting broken in the seventh game which also saw the American roll her ankle slightly. From that point on, everything changed with Serena struggling with her ankle with another momentum switch flipping over to Pliskova who broke for 4-5.
Looking out of it, Serena resorted to ripping winners from anywhere she wanted on the court. Two match points were what she had on the return, but Pliskova delivered with some timely hitting to save three more match points to level the match at five-all.
Though Serena began to overhit, you have to give credit to the Czech who was able to keep her calm and rally back knowing fully well her opponent was struggling with something. An ailing Serena struggled to serve, dropping serve once more before Pliskova sealed what was an improbable comeback.