WTA Indian Wells, Semi-Final Preview #2: Victoria Azarenka v Karolina Pliskova

Victoria Azarenka

The second semi-final on Friday at the BNP Paribas Open will feature the world number 13, Victoria Azarenka up against the world number 18, Karolina Pliskova. If their last match, a three hour-13 minute epic in Brisbane, is anything to go by then this could be a sensational semi-final…

Pliskova produced her best performance in a long, long time, overwhelming Daria Kasatkina in the quarter-finals, 6-3 6-2 in just 63 minutes. The 18-year-old Russian didn’t play a bad match at all, as the stats demonstrate, hitting 16 winners to 15 unforced errors. Pliskova though was ON it from start to finish. Her serve was electric, dropping just two points behind the first serve and she found a neat balance between aggression and accuracy from the baseline. The Czech player finished with 30 winners to 10 unforced errors; these are insane stats for Indian Wells where the tendency is for longer rallies and more errors than winners.

This result for Pliskova, a first ever semi-final at a Premier Mandatory tournament, has been somewhat out of the blue. The 23-year-old lost her first round matches in both Dubai and Doha; in fact, she won just two games against Margarita Gasparyan in a worryingly lifeless performance. However, a week’s break from tennis seems to have done her the world of good. Hopefully, Pliskova will learn from this with her future scheduling…

For Azarenka, despite dropping one set in the fourth round to Sam Stosur, it’s been rather a breeze through the draw. In the quarter-finals, Azarenka scored her second 6-0 6-0 victory of the year, powering past a struggling, Magdalena Rybarikova in 67 minutes. The scoreline is perhaps a little misleading because Rybarikova certainly had her chances; the Slovak player failed to convert on 12 (!) game points including four break points. She had a medical time-out after the first set for a hip/thigh issue.

Head-to-head record: Azarenka and Pliskova are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head. Azarenka won their first encounter all the way back in 2008 when Prague had it’s first outing as a WTA tournament. Their most recent match was in the opening week of the 2015 season; in a brutal first rounder, Pliskova saved a match point to win, 4-6 7-6(9) 6-4 in a match that ranked at number nine in my WTA best matches countdown of 2015.

Final thoughts: For Azarenka, this will be her toughest match of the week by far and a firm test of her credentials. In this situation, I don’t think that Azarenka will underestimate Pliskova and will be eager to deliver her best tennis in a high-profile match. For the Czech player, she hasn’t played someone of Azarenka’s intensity yet; Pliskova’s mental application will need to be tip-top. While she looks rested, the first round losses in Dubai and Doha are still a concern and show what can happen when her intensity/level drop against an in-form opponent.

Pliskova’s serve has been firing all week so if she keeps this up, this could be a key factor in the match. However, being at night is likely to favour Azarenka who has played almost all of her matches at night. Despite the quarter-final scorelines, there’s no doubt that Pliskova had the more impressive performance on Thursday. She’s got a real shot at the final if she plays close to the level again.

It’s a tough one to call because you can stake a claim for either player. I’m going to go with Azarenka, who I feel will be up for this clash after her disappointment at the Australian Open…

Prediction: Azarenka d. Pliskova in 3 sets

Photo in this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

9 thoughts on “WTA Indian Wells, Semi-Final Preview #2: Victoria Azarenka v Karolina Pliskova

    • She is extremely annoying. Rybarikova couldn’t even win a point, she still wanted to complan…ahhh! I hope she loses to Karolina. Karolina in 3.

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  1. I hope Karolina wins because I cant take a Serena VS Vika final. Vika antics and screams will get worst. It will be Serena VS her wannabe twin 2.0.

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  2. Stop saying that she uses antics and screaming to win against others. She plays much fairly and screaming is a part of women’s tennis now a days. And most of all I very rarely saw her faking injury when losing. And she avoids dramas. I hope she finally comes back and start winning tournaments but would also like pliskova to be in final as well

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  3. Pliskova should have won this match in straight sets? I feel it is a mental issue with Pliskova,she seems to get down on herself when her first serve goes missing? all credit to Vika.who has to be one of the best returners in the womens game,worked out her serve defeating Pliskova 76(1) 16 62….Well done Vika I picked you in 3 sets to win!

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  4. I think Serena will win, but it should be a great match. Vika’s a good enough player to give her a real challenge today.

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