WTA Finals: Pliskova bounces back to stun Halep in three sets
Karolina Pliskova was sharp and efficient today | Photo: Lintao Zhang

A deciding set played after just 58 minutes is rare in a tennis match, even more so at the highest level of women’s tennis at the 2019 WTA Finals Shenzhen. Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep were battling it out for the last semifinal spot and it was a go big or go home encounter. The tension was intense and nerves certainly struck both players.

Pliskova ultimately came from a break down in the deciding set to prevail 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 over the 2014 finalist as she successfully defeated her nemesis to reach the semifinals at the year-end championships for the third year in running. It was a terrific performance from the Czech, who lost five consecutive games at one point in time.

Halep’s fighting spirit was once again evident in the match, rebounding from a horrific first set to bounce back and dominate the second set. Although she will leave Shenzhen empty-handed, it was a great season for the Romanian in which she lifted her second Major title at Wimbledon.

Pliskova and Halep meet at the net after the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman
Pliskova and Halep meet at the net after the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman

Pliskova claims the rollercoaster win

Pliskova came out of the blocks firing as she demonstrated her intentions with a series of winners, playing some of her best tennis to claim the first break of serve. Hitting with precision and accuracy, the Czech often courageously went for the lines and her risk-taking tactics were certainly effective as Halep had no answers for them.

Finding herself on the defence too often with no chance to retaliate, Halep soon trailed by double-break with Pliskova putting up her best performance in Shenzhen thus far. It was a perfect set from the second seed as she needed just 20 minutes to seal the first-set bagel.

Karolina Pliskova in action | Photo: Lintao Zhang
Karolina Pliskova in action | Photo: Lintao Zhang

After an on-court coaching session with recently-united Darren Cahill, it was Halep who managed to completely turn the tables and start the second set with a break, courtesy to a drop in intensity level from Pliskova who sprayed out unforced errors, after hitting just one error off the ground in the first set.

Being more solid at the baseline and making her presence felt, Halep saved a break chance to consolidate her lead. However, eight consecutive points showcased Pliskova’s ability to bounce back as some big hitting from the Czech were too much for the fifth seed.

From there, it was a one-sided affair for Halep as her outstanding defensive abilities proved lethal, forcing her opponents to commit errors and ultimately survived Pliskova’s three break opportunities to successfully serve out the set 6-2.

Halep continued her fine run, responding with six games on the trot after losing the first six games to start the match. The match started leaning towards Halep’s camp as the Wimbledon champion surged out to a 0-2, 0-30 lead within a blink of an eye. Pliskova could barely find a good shot at the baseline and had absolutely no rhythm on her shots.

Simona Halep in action | Photo: Lintao Zhang
Simona Halep in action | Photo: Lintao Zhang

A couple of errors ensured that Pliskova stopped the rout, and that hold proved to be decisive. Three consecutive games from the Czech, with some help from her stunning down-the-line winners, saw her taking the lead for the first time in the decider. Sensing danger, Halep called her coach Cahill down for another chat, but this time it did not seem to help as she lost eight of the following nine points after that.

Five straight games put Pliskova just one game away from the win, but Halep was determined to put up a tough fight. Out of nowhere, the Romanian was able to break back and return on serve but lost a 30-0 lead while serving to stay in the match as Pliskova fired a couple of bullet-like groundstrokes, ultimately ending the match with a dead netcord winner.