Pliskova

Wide Open Field At WTA Tour Year-End Championships Will Determine “Player of the Year”

When considering who should be labeled the “Player of the Year” for 2017 on the WTA Tour, there’s not an easy answer.

Serena Williams won the Australian Open to start the year, but missed most of the rest of the year as she gave birth to her first child.

Jelena Ostapenko was the unexpected winner at the French Open.

Garbine Muguruza won her second career major title at Wimbledon.

Slone Stephens emerged from the four American semifinalists to win the U.S. Open.

Venus Williams reached two major finals at the Australian and Wimbledon and was the most consistent player on the Grand Slam stage.

Simona Halep was one of four players to rank No. 1 in the world during the year, joining Karolina Pliskova, Angelique Kerber and Muguruza.

All of this schizophrenic form from the top players make the year-end WTA Tour Finals in Singapore much more intriguing as the year-end top ranking is on the line and the “Player of the Year” will be determined.

While Pliskova, Muguruza and Halep have all secured the No. 1 ranking in the last three months, seven of the eight players playing in Singapore have a mathematical chance to finish the year as the world No. 1.

Halep enters Singapore as the world No. 1 and after finally breaking through and achieving the top ranking – after three high-profile match losses that would have given her the historic rank. Now that she has achieved this important career milestone, the pressure will be “off” Halep in Singapore and she could free-wheel and play pressure free, which will benefit her greatly.

Pliskova backed into the No. 1 ranking when she lost in the second round at Wimbledon, benefitting from Halep and her nerves getting the best of her in the quarterfinals against Jo Konta, when a win would have given her the top ranking. Pliskova loves the controlled indoor conditions with her big serve and has motivation to garner a signature tournament on her 2017 season.

As great of a champion as Muguruza is, she has only been a champion at five WTA events, which is quite astonishing. She has won two titles this year at Wimbledon and Cincinnati – her first multi-win season – so she is becoming more comfortable with “winning” and becoming a consistent star on tour.

Other than Muguruza, the only other multiple major winner in Singapore is Venus Williams, who loves the indoor conditions. Venus always seems to rise to the occasion in big matches and, even at age 37, may be poised to rise again at this year-end event.

Elina Svitolina has had a breakthrough season, establishing herself as Top 5 talent and is destined to win majors and could take another step forward in her career with the title in Singapore.

Caroline Garcia was the last player to qualify for the year-end championships, but is also on the rise after defeating Halep in the final of the China Open in Beijing. Andy Murray once tweeted that Garcia would become No. 1 in the world when she first played at Roland Garros. Years later, she is starting to live up to that promise.

Wozniacki reached seven tournament finals in 2017, losing her first six before winning in Tokyo this Fall. Ostapenko has also won in the Asian Fall swing in Seoul, South Korea, her first title since her break-through win at Roland Garros. Both baseliners are in form and could also provide for a surprise in the wide-open field that has WTA finals betting odds in a constant state of flux

Angelique Kerber Rolls Into Australian Open Fourth Round

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Angelique Kerber continued her roll at the Australian Open as she breezed past Kristyna Pliskova in the third round on Friday, 6-0, 6-4.

“It’s great to have another good match under my belt and to be in the fourth round again here,” Kerber said. “I think that I’m finding my rhythm in the tournament now.”

The German made her breakthrough in Melbourne last year winning her first major title inside Rod Laver Arena, and will be looking to grab her third overall this year after she also claimed the US Open in 2016. Kerber is well on her way to the final in the weaker top half of the draw, and she could possibly meet up with Serena Williams for a rematch in the final.

Pliskova is the sister of Karolina Pliskova, who reached the US Open final last year, but is left-handed and has struggled to have the same level of success as her twin. Kristyna has been known more for her doubles results, but had made a good run in Melbourne this year.

Kerber easily dispatched the lower-ranked Pliskova, hitting just 14 unforced errors to her 34. After needed three sets to win both of her first two matches, the No. 1 player in the world gained some much needed confidence as she continues her Australian Open title defence.

In the first set, Kerber raced out to a 5-0 lead after just 17 minutes and finished off the bagel easily thanks to three unforced errors in the final game from Pliskova.

Kerber continued her great form into the second set, going up an early break. Pliskova, though, was able to get back into the set by winning three straight games midway through to take a lead. Kerber didn’t let that mini-slump in the second set stop her, though, as she broke at 4-4 to take a lead before serving out the match with ease.

“It was not so easy today, she is a tough opponent,” said Kerber. “I tried to stay focused until the last point.”

Next up for Kerber is American Coco Vandeweghe, who defeated Genie Bouchard in the third round in three tight sets.

“I think it will be a little bit similar to today. Coco is a tough opponent,” Kerber said. “I know that she’s serving good, as well. I have to move good, be ready, bring a lot of balls back, but also be aggressive.”

If Kerber can get past Vandeweghe, she could most likely take on Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, with Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova potentially awaiting her in the semifinals.

 

Karolina Pliskova Reaches First Major Quarterfinal With US Open Win Over Venus Williams

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Karolina Pliskova ended the opportunity of having an all-Williams semifinal at the US Open as she defeated Venus Williams on Monday, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).

“I put everything in there, I’m happy that I won it,” said Pliskova.

The 10th-seeded Pliskova reached her first quarterfinal at a major with the win that saw her battle back from a being down a set and a break in the second set, while she also had to fight off a match point in the third.

In the first, the Czech didn’t have much to offer for the crowd-favorite Williams. The American, currently ranked No. 6 in the world at the age of 36, rolled out to a 3-0 lead in the first set with ease. That lead would expand to 5-1 for Williams, but she would have difficulty closing out the set as Pliskova would break her twice and actually got the set back on serve.

With Pliskova serving at 4-5, though, she quickly fell into a 0-40 hole and was unable to battle out of it as Williams broke on her third chance to close out the set and take a lead.

The second set saw some of that momentum for Pliskova from the end of the first set carry over. Despite going down a break early, the Czech didn’t let it crush her hopes, as she immediately broke in the next game before breaking again two games later, eventually having a 5-3 lead. Serving out the set at 5-4, Pliskova had no troubles levelling the match as she held at 15 to take the match into a decider.

Pliskova, who hit 33 winners in the match, continued to be in charge early on in the third set, pressuring Williams in her first two service games. The pressure paid off as Pliskova broke for a 2-1 lead before fighting off three break points in the next game to go up 3-1. One sloppy game at 4-3, though, would cost Pliskova the lead as Williams broke easily to level up the match.

With Pliskova serving at 4-5, it looked like the opportunity had slipped out of the hands of the 24-year old as Williams had a look at a match point. Pliskova was able to hold her nerve, though, and earn a tough hold for 5-5. That gave the Czech a confidence boost that allowed her to break in the next game and attempt to serve for the match at 6-5.

After quickly going up 40-0, with three match points in hand, it looked like Pliskova had finally sealed the deal. It would never be that easy with Williams, one of the most decorated tennis players of all-time, on the other side of the net. The American was able to save all three of those match points, winning five points in a row to break back and force a final set tiebreak.

“To be honest, it was very difficult after I lost my serve for 6-6. She played a very good game but I was still focused,” said Pliskova.

In the tiebreak, the fight-back from Williams had finally reached its limit. Pliskova was able to race out to a 6-2 lead where the American saved a fourth match point. At 6-3, though, the job was finally completed as the Czech capitalized on her fifth match point to ensure her place in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time in her career.

“So far I’m happy that I got my first quarter-final. I’m going to enjoy this moment and prepare for the next match,” said Pliskova, who will take on either the No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwansa or Ana Konjuh in the next round.