An all top ten clash, the third of the tournament so far, will see Karolina Pliskova play Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semi-finals of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open on Friday night.
Kuznetsova d. Pavlyuchenkova, 6-3 6-2
In barely over an hour, Kuznetsova produced another superb display to book her place in a first semi-final of 2017. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova never recovered from a slow start to the match as Kuznetsova was completely dominant on serve in the first set with 76% of first serves in and 88% of first serve points won. Pavlyuchenkova had her coach down on the changeover after the first set – she was listing all the things that Kuznetsova was doing well with her coach trying to get her to focus on her own game!
Pavlyuchenkova took on board the advice and came out with an injection of intensity, playing her best game of the match to break Kuznetsova’s serve for the first time. She quickly backed it up but that would, surprisingly, be her final game of the match. Kuznetsova settled once more, breaking back thanks to a dire game from Pavlyuchenkova. Rather emphatically, Kuznetsova ran away with the match, showcasing her full repertoire of shots.
Pavlyuchenkova will want to forget about that second set quickly but it doesn’t take away from what was another strong week. Kuznetsova, who came into this match with two straight set losses to Pavlyuchenkova in 2017, moves on in the desert…
Pliskova d. Muguruza, 7-6(5) 7-6(2)
Pliskova extended her head-to-head record against Muguruza to 6-1 with a sixth consecutive victory. It was a battle though in one of the better matches of the tournament so far. Pliskova failed to serve out both sets; once in the first set at *5-3 and twice in the second set at *5-2 and *5-4. Despite the setbacks, Pliskova regrouped in the tiebreaks, playing especially well in the first set tiebreak.
Pliskova had two match points at 7-6 *5-4 *40-15 – Muguruza produced some terrific defence on the second and competed really well to extend both sets. There were some nice patches of aggressive play from the Spaniard, notably coming back in the first set where she looked awesome for a string of three games. Her return was mostly excellent in this match.
There really wasn’t much difference between the pair with Pliskova a touch more solid in the crux moments. Muguruza missed a crucial point coming forward in the second set tiebreak and sadly, double faulted down match point.
Head-to-head record: Pliskova and Kuznetsova split their two encounters in 2017; Pliskova won in Cincy, 6-3 4-6 6-2, but Kuznetsova, running on fumes, secured a plucky win in Singapore, 3-6 6-2 7-6(6)
Interesting stat(s): Pliskova has lost just two matches in 2017 and has backed up last year’s semi-final result in Indian Wells. For Kuznetsova, she’s enjoying her best week in the desert since 2008 when she lost in the final to Ana Ivanovic.
Final thoughts: Kuznetsova is enjoying a superb tournament considering she came in cold having not played for over a month since St. Petersburg. Pliskova hasn’t played her best tennis this week but has been impressive in the way that she has managed to navigate her way through a pretty tricky draw. The court surface suits Kuznetsova’s game better but i’m leaning towards the increasingly consistent, Pliskova who keeps getting the job done.