A Doha final rematch… two of the in-form players in 2017 will meet in the first of the Miami Open semi-finals as the world number three, Karolina Pliskova will take on the world number 14, Caroline Wozniacki.
Ka.Pliskova d. Lucic-Baroni, 6-3 6-4 (QF)
In a match that was tighter than the scoreline lets on, Pliskova came from a break down in the second set to win her 23rd match of the year against a dangerous but poor-serving, Lucic-Baroni. The pair combined for some wild stats in the first set with just one point won on second serve! There was one game where Lucic-Baroni swatted away three return winners. The key stat though was nine double faults for Lucic-Baroni including one on set point. Pliskova did well to hang in some points and get to the net when she could.
Lucic-Baroni’s serve improved in the second set; after saving three break points, she broke Pliskova’s serve and was threatening a double break with a 4-2* 30-0* advantage. Pliskova though never panicked and fought back to 4-4. The clincher was an outrageous pick-up from Pliskova down break point off another deep, battering return from Lucic-Baroni which plonked over the net for a winner. A groundstroke from Pliskova then caught the line forcing Lucic-Baroni wide to seal the hold and she broke for the win. The Czech player stood her ground against Lucic-Baroni’s power and played the big points well.
Wozniacki d. Safarova, 6-4 6-3 (QF)
The second quarter-final was much like the first one in the sense that the scoreline hid what was a closely contested contest between Wozniacki and Lucie Safarova, and a pretty great one too. The first four games of the match all went to deuce – Safarova had a break point to go up a double break but Wozniacki levelled up and then began to look more comfortable on her serve. The Dane did a good job at mixing up pace and hitting with more height to Safarova’s backhand. The Czech player stayed in contention with her serve setting up big winners on crucial points; Safarova saved a duo of break points in two successive service games but couldn’t hold on at the end with Wozniacki winning the set, 6-4.
The second set was more of the same and it came down to a pair of tight games midway through the set. Wozniacki held to 4-3, pulling through a three deuce game as Safarova went long on a drive volley and also on a forehand, both points that had she won, would have brought up break point. Safarova had game points in the next game but Wozniacki got the all important break – Safarova threw in a couple of double faults and was perturbed by Wozniacki’s excellent depth. The Dane served out the match for her 22nd win of the year.
Head-to-head record: Wozniacki leads Pliskova, 3-1 in their head-to-head. Most significantly, Pliskova won their most recent match in the final of Doha, 6-3 6-4.
Interesting stat: Both players will be aiming to reach the Miami final for the first time in their career – this is Wozniacki’s second semi-final in Miami, having led Maria Sharapova by a set at this stage in 2012. Pliskova is enjoying her best ever run at this tournament having reached the quarter-finals back in 2015.
Final thoughts: Pliskova’s win over Lucic-Baroni epitomised her year so far with an excellent mental display, winning the points that mattered. While she has fallen in the deeper stages of the big tournaments, the Czech player has enjoyed her most consistent start to a season and seems to be playing better in Miami (compared to Indian Wells) where she hasn’t dropped a set yet. In much the same way, Wozniacki is plowing her way through the field and there’s a case that this is her best form since the summer of 2014. With no points to defend during the clay court season, it won’t be long till Wozniacki is back in the world’s top ten… it could even be next week!
Wozniacki has been consistent, yet subtly aggressive, and has been effectively mixing up the play well this tournament. She will need to keep doing that and then some to get an increasingly secure, Pliskova on the ropes.