One of the favourites to win the tournament after Serena Williams announced her withdrawal, Karolina Pliskova is the only one of the top four seeds to make the semi finals and a title would help her move closer to a career high ranking in the top 2. Number 1 is certainly a possibility too with Angelique Kerber looking out of form and Serena having a reduced schedule. Svetlana Kuznetsova stands in the way of her and another Premier Mandatory final.
Pliskova already has 2 titles to her name this year and will be the favourite to make it three. After navigating a tricky opener against the Olympic Gold Medallist Monica Puig, Pliskova has had a slightly easier time of it since then. She has straight sets wins either side of a retirement victory and has held her nerve to win all three tiebreaks she has played so far this tournament. She won’t be pleased to have been broken 5 times against Garbine Muguruza in her quarter final win but earning a total of 14 break points more than made up for that in her 7-6 7-6 win. The match could have been over much quicker though with Pliskova holding a 5-2 lead and had 2 match points at 5-4 on serve also. “I had some good rallies on my hand and on my racquet, but, yeah, didn’t serve well in important moments. So everything was through the rally, which is always tough for me, and then always she — I think she was from the baseline playing really solid” she said.
Meanwhile, Kuznetsova has quietly looked impressive the past week. She avenged her Australian Open loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova by defeating her fellow Russian in dominant style last round, winning 6-3 6-2. The World No.8’s form remains all over the place but there is no doubt she is a formidable opponent on many weeks and this looks to be one of them. The two time finalist feels comfortable with the conditions; “Here, the bounce of the ball is really high, and I really like it because I play with topspin” Kuznetsova said.
The pair met twice last year, splitting the series 1-1. Kuznetsova won at the year end champions in Singapore while Pliskova was a winner in Cincinnati on her way to the title. With many of the expected threats already out, Pliskova will want to further establish herself as the one to beat on the tour right now – winning this tournament would send a statement. However, she is going to need to serve better than she did against Muguruza to ensure a straight forward victory.
Prediction – Karolina Pliskova in straight sets