The 2019 Internazionali BNL d’italia is back on track after many players had to do double duty on Thursday after Wednesday’s wash-out. Thursday was one of the most frustrating tennis days of the year for me – a case of FOMO as I missed practically everything! The double duty has clearly had an impact on the draw with a scattering of withdrawals and retirements. It still bugs me that they build so little contingency into the schedule for any wash-outs. It’s been a long week at work so i’ve mostly checked out of Rome already 😴😂. Read on for a review of Pliskova-Azarenka in Friday’s Set Points post from Rome.
Match of the day 🎾
Karolina Pliskova d. Victoria Azarenka, 6-7(5) 6-2 6-2
The Pliskova-Azarenka match-up has become one of the most reliable and engaging on the WTA tour. The pair are now split at 4-4 with five of their eight encounters going the distance. Pliskova turned the tables on their recent clay-court encounter from Stuttgart with a come-from-behind victory out on Pietrangeli.
The first set was very evenly contested. Pliskova failed to serve out the set at *5-3 with Azarenka coming back to take it in the tiebreak. I was very impressed with Azarenka’s point construction as she nailed a few bullet backhands down-the-line in the tiebreak to open up the court with the forehand. An audacious kick second serve at 5-5 that jumped up even on Pliskova (!) was crucial before Pliskova double faulted down set point.
From there on, Pliskova locked in and was pretty devastating. The Czech player dropped just five points behind her first serve through the final two sets and was able to get the first strike in, playing much more aggressively. There were a handful of opportunistic return winners too as Azarenka’s serve became increasingly vulnerable. Thanks to WTA TV who cut off the match at the start of the third set on demand 👏.
I was surprised that Azarenka lost the match after edging the first set tiebreak but I felt it was more about Pliskova taking control. I’m thrilled to see Azarenka’s form steadily improving. Playing all these tournaments has really helped her to build momentum and I just hope she can stay healthy and have a big Slam run in one of the next three Majors. If she keeps this up, I think she will be a title contender for the US Open.
Pliskova is 14-6 in three setters this year and has come from a set down to win on TEN occasions this year! She’s proving to be such a tough competitor and for anyone. To beat Pliskova requires a top level performance.
Point of the day 👏
From Thursday’s schedule, this was a lovely point in the Vondrousova-Kasatkina third rounder on Pietrangeli.
Press highlights 📰
Naomi Osaka was forced to withdraw from Rome ahead of her quarter-final match against Kiki Bertens due to a hand injury. A real shame because I was looking forward to this match. It is Osaka’s second withdrawal from her last three tournaments. Hopefully nothing too concerning. I think Osaka’s form has been decent throughout the clay court season and IMO, she’s definitely a contender for Roland Garros.
Recommended listening 🎧
A segway to the ATP tour. If you haven’t already heard it, this interview with Nick Kyrgios on the No Challenges Remaining podcast was absolutely fascinating. There were many interesting takes. My main disappointment was with the Wawrinka-Kokkinakis-Vekic incident and how Nick still didn’t really take ownership for it and understand the impact it must have had on Vekic. He said he wouldn’t do it again but thought it was hilarious…
Tomorrow’s OOP ⭐
Saturday’s semi-finals will see Kiki Bertens vs. Johanna Konta and Karolina Pliskova vs. Maria Sakkari. Interesting to see a Pliskova-Sakkari match again after THAT encounter in Rome last year where the umpire’s chair took a battering. I’m out tomorrow so will catch up in the evening. To be honest, neither of these matches do much for me. Who you got? I’d go with the favourites and a Bertens-Pliskova final.