WTA Dubai Final Preview: Simona Halep v Karolina Pliskova


Karolina Pliskova continued her stunning week with a semi-final victory over Garbine Muguruza, 6-4 5-7 7-5 in Dubai.  Karolina has won five matches this week against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, Ana Ivanovic, Lucie Safarova and Muguruza with each match taking progressively longer.  This marathon semi-final lasted two hours and 53 minutes.  I can’t believe that Karolina is still standing after all the tennis she has played in the last few weeks.  In her semi-final match in Antwerp against Carla Suarez Navarro last weekend she looked exhausted; with just one day off between that match and the start of her tournament in Dubai, she has done a remarkable job to win five matches, of which three have been decided in three sets.

In the Pliskova v Muguruza match, the story of the first two sets was break points.  The pair had 19 break points between them with just two successful conversions.  After losing the opener, Muguruza had many opportunities in the second set eventually sealing the set on a Pliskova double fault.  In the deciding set, Pliskova broke to love at 5-5 after a woeful game from Muguruza.  The Czech player threatened to return the favour, but saved three break points from *0-40 down to seal her first win over Muguruza and a place in her biggest career final to date.

Pliskova will play Simona Halep in the Dubai final after the world number four beat Caroline Wozniacki, 2-6 6-1 6-1. It was a befuddling semi-final with three one-sided sets. Halep got off to a slow start as she made a string of unforced errors into the net.  Wozniacki dominated early proceedings with her best set of the tournament so far.  However as the match wore on, her energy levels dipped as the week of battling illness finally got the better of her.  After fighting past Ekaterina Makarova in a tight quarter-final match, Halep has secured back-to-back top ten wins, her first of the year.

This will be the first ever time that Halep and Pliskova have played each other.  I’ve gone against Pliskova for the last three matches and here I go again.  Pliskova’s last three matches have been against aggressive baseliners.  Halep, while having an aggressive streak to her game at times, offers something different in the sense that she is likely to get a lot more balls back in play.  Even though Halep has been error-strewn at times this week, I’d be surprised if Pliskova can muscle up the energy to take the title… but then again, I didn’t expect her to win her last three matches and she has come through with flying colours…

Prediction: Halep d. Pliskova in 3 sets

25 thoughts on “WTA Dubai Final Preview: Simona Halep v Karolina Pliskova

  1. My initial prediction was Halep for the title and I’m standing by it.
    If this wasn’t Pliskova’s tenth match in two weeks…I’d be backing her for the win. Halep doesn’t fare well when she’s not the aggressive player, hence why she tends to lose to players like Serena, Maria and Ana. Pliskova can take time away from Halep and then her whole game falls to pieces. But she can’t possibly be sharp enough tomorrow to keep knocking Simona round a court. Her serve has gotten less reliable as the weeks gone on and with added nerves, I think she’ll lose in straight sets. But I hope I’m wrong.


    • Halep can sometimes change har game according to the player she’s facing. Against Makarova she was first surprised from the uplift that Katja brought to her game in the second set. Then again has found an answer by playing deep and strong near the lateral lines. That came very uneasy to Makarova who’s accustomed with early comings to the net. At AO came Makarova around 20 times to the net in 2 sets, in Dubai 10 times in three sets. Very big difference that says it all.
      Against Wozniacki she wanted to be aggresive and finish points early knowing that Caro can easily play very long rallies with succes. Hat succumbed to that strategy in an ocean of unforced errors in the first set. Then she had accepted the long rallies with just a bit from extra aggression in hitting harder and longer. And waiting patiently for the chance of hitting a winner. The result was that Caro made a lot of forced/unforced errors and suffered 18 winners from Halep.
      Tommorow the story may repeat itself. There will be the possibility aswell that Halep gets so stunned from the big game that Pliskova can produce and nevermore recover.
      Anyway I back the prediction with Halep in three.


  2. I think Karo and MUG both have tried to dictate their opponents. Karo did exactly to limit MUG movements at the back of baseline. Karo’s games can never be elegant like the other players on tour (e.g. Muguruza, Maria, Serena, Halep, etc) and in fact her games are very similar to Linsay Davenport. Nevertheless, I think MUG is a real grand slam contender if she learn how to read the wind and control her UFEs and DBs. I may bet on her to win next time if they play in other locations!!!

    Like I said before, to beat Halep is to hit the balls to both corners of the court such as: Domi in AO 2014; Makarova in AO 2015; MUG in Fed Cup 2015; and Woz in the first set. They all found the winning method but the execution is another story. I think people did not realize that Halep lost three times to Venus when Venus was not feeling very well except hitting the balls to both ends. Halep can only win grand slam unless she does not meet this kind of player in the final.

    As much as I love Karo, I think her tank is empty. It will be a miracle to win in the final this time. She is obviously very tired after another long match. Her only hope is to hold her serve forcing Halep to play tie-break. I try to convince myself may be she can take a set from Halep. I think Halep will win in 2 sets this time.


    • I disagree that Pliskova doesn’t play elegant games. She hits so cleanly and with such natural instinct, unlike Davenport or Venus Williams. As a ball striker she’s somewhere between Kvitova and Ivanovic- when she hits a winner, you can’t help but go “woah”. That she makes it look so effortless is insane!
      Muguruza, I agree on. I could see her winning half a dozen Slams if she works on that serve. Her game suits all court types and she can play any player. I’d liken her to a female Djokovic and I can’t think of a much higher compliment.


      • What I mean “elegant” is someone can “consistently” mix of some volleys and heavy hitters. Should I asking too much and am hoping she plays like Federer….the master of elegant! You are right she hits the ball clean but that is not the definition of elegant in my perspectives. Muguruza’s game and person are elegant but Karo is elegant as a player and person. I have been following Karo and MUG since very long time way back to their early ITF tournaments. Basically, I know how they can do and evolve.

        Sometimes to win a grand slam is not how good you are but depend on who you match up with, forms, weather and court conditions. Most importantly is able to win when feeling not so well like Steffi, Serena, Maria and Venus. Karo has this demeanor in her and it is a valuable asset.

        Karo has nothing to lose in the final. I think she will hit really hard, flat and a few more aces to surprise Halep for the fun of it. Who knows what will happen though the odd is saying Halep in 2?


      • I hope that she does! The only lost in Sydney because she played it safe when she was serving for the set instead of going for her shots. And Petra pounced. Had she won that set, I reckon she’d have run away with the match.


  3. A female Djokovic?? Can’t say I agree with that comparison at all. Though I’d agree Pliskova’s game has a certain elegance to it when it’s going well. Like watching Cilic or Del Potro when they’re red hot. “Woah” will be uttered more than once whenever watching an on form Pliskova


    • I don’t believe it is. They are both aggressive baseliners who hit hard and heavy, striking deep and creating angles. Her forehand is deadly but that backhand down the line is the real beauty. But the real similarity for me is the way they move and set up their shots.
      I always saw her quite like a young Ivanovic, who grew up playing with Djokovic and shared more than a few similarities herself. But Muguruza isn’t held back by the weaknesses that have dogged Ana.


      • lollllll Battle of Elegant. I think not many young players know how to manipulate the court conditions. I think Halep has acquired the knowledge to certain extents. Pliskova is a joy to watch when she hits some nice FH and BH because she is a natural “flat” ball striker. She makes it seems to be so easy (i.e. similar to Nick Kyrgios). I think MUG FH has more spins.

        The final match will start at 8 pm Dubai. Temperature will drop to 22C but humidity is still very high. So, I expect the ball to fly heavily in favor of Karo. I accidentally picked up $20 from my office parking lot yesterday. I will bet this $20 on Karo to win @3.60.

        By the way, was thinking Woz could have won the semi if she wore her “white bikini” to play Halep (just kidding!).


  4. Pliskova vs. MUG looked like a battle of tanks. Tommorow it will be like a tank taking on a helicopter let’s say. I really don’t know according to military science which one is supposed to take down the other.
    A bit of luck for Halep is there too in meeting Pliskova because she has lost already twice from MUG lately. I wouldn’t have backed Halep in that eventuality for sure.
    Now it will be really a shame for Halep not to win this one. I am almost sure that she was very pleased not to meet MUG again so soon.
    But ho knows what tommorow brings…


  5. Pliskova seems to be such a cool dude and just maybe this is one reason for her sustained performance, particularly over the past two weeks, where she has consistently offered what was required to win.
    Halep is one heck of a player but has found it difficult to beat players like Pliskova…i. e Invanovic, an in form Keys, Mladenovic, Muguruza etc. They all have the physical scope/capabilities of Pliskova.
    Pliskova’s first service stats has remained around 50+ for the entire tournament and a 1st win rate of 70% so there’s no reason to think that just because she playing the ‘helicopter’ Halep in the final it should change.
    My thinking is that Pliskova has a better than 75% chance.


  6. As much as i want Simona to win this one convincingly, i agree that due to her built, she suffers against players like MUG, Marko, Serena, etc. Not that is it is not impossible to do so, she/her team seems to be in the process of finding a formula to these players. (Henin found a way which also suit her style). So it was great to hear Simona say that she needs more match practices and probably to play (win or lose) to these challenging players. So long as she continues with the attitude of not fearing to lose a match and take every match as a testing ground for their tactical plans, it will only be a matter of time.
    Tonight’s match I think will be very similar to the Marko QF, very close and if Simona can stay with that same gutsy attitude of not fearing to lose and focus instead of rushing.., she might pull this through.
    MUG SF was the first time I saw Karo play… she is one ice iron lady. Incredible. For me, Women Tennis has never been more exciting than now, with players like Karo, Marko, Simona …


    • You should go and watch some of Pliskova’s other big matches, namely her Sydney run. The way she despatched Kerber and came from a set behind against CSN were particularly impressive!


      • thanks Andrew for the tip. Definitely will do so. Glad to have discovered Karo through Dubai this year, at the time where she seems to be really peaking. I misses Halep’s 2013 so not going to miss this one 😉


  7. James, Pliskova and Muguruza actually had 28 points between them. Pliskova saved 13 of 14, and Muguruza saved 12 of 14. Hence there were three breaks, one per each set (there were no tiebreaks).

    I don’t know whom to pick for the title, hmmm maybe even Pliskova. Halep lost her first set to Caro yesterday before I could even blink, then she regrouped and stormed through the following sets, but still…


    • Hi Marija, when I mentioned the break points I was just referring to the break point conversions in the first two sets. It would have made more of an impact to have mentioned the stats during the whole match!


  8. It will be her way or other’s way. I think the balance of the match will reside in which one can impose her game. If it will be a static game of Plisko serving big and Halep making the DF, the result will be obvious.
    Now if Simona can brig up her guerrilla game against big hitters, like against Maka than we’ll see another story.
    Plus that the net game of Plisko doesn’t exist. She has tryied one single net ball against Muguruza with a ridiculous BH volley. So there’s an open road for Simona to play short slices over the net, all that she can easily achieve.
    If Halep hits the first serve around 60%, as in the last two matches, Pliskova will run for her life. 🙂


    • Actually Pliskova is generally pretty capable at the net when she gets there in time. Muguruza just isn’t an easy player to come forwards against because she hits so hard and deep.


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