Johanna Konta will be aiming for not only a first ever win over Karolina Pliskova, but also to keep her hopes of qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore alive when the pair play each other on Thursday at the China Open in Beijing.
Konta came from a break down in the first set to record a 7-5 6-2 win on Wednesday over the world #26, Timea Babos. The match turned with Konta serving at *4-5 *0-30 with Babos just two points away from closing out the first set. Konta drew Babos into the net on multiple occasions and was the much more consistent player from midway through the first set. Konta dominated on serve although it felt at times that Babos should be doing much more on return. It was another efficient display from Konta whose last six wins on tour have all come in straight sets. Konta still remains in the hunt for Singapore and she’s shown no signs of being fazed by the prospect.
In a brilliant match to open proceedings on the Lotus Court on Wednesday, Karolina Pliskova saved a match point to overcome Daria Kasatkina, 3-6 7-5 7-6(7) in two hours and 27 minutes. Pliskova looked very fatigued at the end in terms of her footwork but she hung in there – it made me think back to a match earlier this year against Margarita Gasparyan in Doha where the Czech player was certainly lacking in fight. Kasatkina probably should have won this match in two – up 6-3 5-4* 15-0*, there were two lengthy points in a row where the Russian player looked to have the ascendancy but didn’t stamp her authority.
The match went the distance and for a time it looked like Kasatkina was slowly but surely wearing Pliskova down as the rallies lengthened. Pliskova though fought back from a break down in the decider and served for the match at *5-4 in the third set. Kasatkina broke back straight away and the match was decided in the third set tiebreak. There were a handful of stunning points towards the end – at 6-6, Pliskova barely moved her feet after a successful lob from Kasatkina. Pliskova got the ball back in this particular rally but Kasatkina took control with a drive volley winner. However, on her match point, Kasatkina dumped a return wide on a Pliskova second serve. The Czech player finished the match in style with a lob winner and a crunching return winner. It was a great effort from Kasatkina, but she is still often coming up short in these tight matches.
Head-to-head record: The pair have played five times and Pliskova has won all five matches – their last four matches have all gone the distance. Pliskova’s most recent wins over Konta came at Indian Wells (7-6(2) 3-6 6-3, R16) and Eastbourne (6-7(7) 6-3 6-3, SF)
Interesting stat: Pliskova and Konta have had remarkably similar years in terms of W-L record, Pliskova is at 42-19 while Konta is just two wins behind at 40-20.
Final thoughts: I was really surprised by the head-to-head as I didn’t realise that Pliskova and Konta have played each other five times! While it’s demonstrably in Pliskova’s favour, they’ve all been very close. Konta has been efficiently moving her way through the draw, while Pliskova has needed two lengthy three setters to reach the third round. Add to this, Pliskova is also still in doubles. Pliskova’s serve normally comes up trumps in this match-up but Konta has been serving well through Asia. This may be Konta’s best chance yet at posting a win over Pliskova…