In a repeat of the Cincinnati final and both vying for their first US Open title, Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova will battle it out in the US Open final on Saturday.
First of all, a huge hearty congratulations to Kerber who will move to the world number one spot come Monday. I’m thrilled for Angie and her fans, and it is well deserved after a magnificent year. The big improvement for me has been the mental aspect of her game in 2016 which has been remarkable. I kept thinking back this morning to the match against Misaki Doi in the first round at the Australian Open where she saved a match point…
Kerber’s move to the world number one position was confirmed after Karolina Pliskova’s 6-2 7-6(5) victory over Serena Williams. Kerber made sure it was a perfect night as she followed Pliskova into the final with a 6-4 6-3 win over Caroline Wozniacki. As both matches were at night in the US , i’m not going to attempt to recap them. You can follow what happened on Thursday night from the WTA Insider blog HERE.
I wondered whether it was ever going to happen for Pliskova at a Slam having never previously reached the second week. After breaking new ground by beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round, it’s been a bit of an avalanche and it seems that a weight has almost been lifted from her shoulders. The victory over Venus (recap HERE) was Pliskova’s only dropped set of the tournament where she also saved a match point.
Kerber is yet to drop a set all tournament and has been steady as you like and typically reliable. Now that she is confirmed as world number one, I wonder whether this will take some of the pressure away in the final, or if she will feel the need to perform. Kerber has the experience of two Slam finals this year but I don’t think Pliskova will be too phased compared to other first time Slam finalists. She’s played her last three matches on Ashe, two of them against Serena and Venus, and she’s always come across as a very calm and composed player on court. She can rely on her serve, which should give her a pathway into the match.
This *could* be a cracker… the pair shared some super finals in 2015 including in Birmingham, one of the matches of the year. Kerber won both finals they played in 2015 but Pliskova won their most recent encounter in the Cincy final, 6-3 6-1. Pliskova was just too good although Kerber was clearly fatigued having arrived from Rio. This match will likely be a more even playing field as both players have had relatively routine passages through the draw (For Karolina, Venus match aside).
For Pliskova, her last four matches have been against big hitters (Pavs, Venus, Konjuh and Serena) so Kerber presents a different challenge. The fast hard court should suit both players; it helps Pliskova’s serve, but also gives Kerber more pop on her strokes too. Kerber hasn’t really been tested yet or needed to raise her level – she managed to elevate her game for both Slam finals this year so my hunch is that she will do the same here.
I think it’s easy to stake a claim for either player winning this. I think it will be a very close final and i’m edging towards Kerber in three.