By Ros Satar
- Karolina Pliskova def. Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-2
- Victoria Azarenka def. Magdalena Rybarikova 6-0 6-0
- Victoria Azarenka  v Karolina Pliskova  – H2H: 1-1
INDIAN WELLS – Victoria Azarenka and Karolina Pliskova will line up for the second women’s semi-final at the BNP Paribas Open after demolishing their respective opponents in the quarter-finals.
Pliskova ended the dream run of Kasatkina as she came out of the blocks first thing on Thursday morning with purpose.
The Russian teenager looked a little weary, and no wonder, having reached the semi-finals in St. Petersburg and packing in time on both the singles and doubles court in Doha, before her run to the biggest quarter-finals of her career here in Indian wells.
While she could absorb some of the pace coming at her from the big hitting Czech, eventually Pliskova just was too forceful, breaking through just the once to matter in the first set before striking early with a break in the second set and once more to make it too long a road back form the young Russian, as Pliskova closed out a 6-3 6-2 win
Kasatkina admitted that it had been a huge learning experience, considering that last year she was outside the Top 300, and is headed into the Top 40 after this tournament.
“I was a little bit tired after four tough matches. And also she was playing very good. She hold her serve, and it was really difficult to trying to get chances on return. But, anyway, I’m happy with my result here. I [am] looking forward toward the next tournaments.
“I’m top 40. Last year I was 340. (Smiling.) Yeah, it was pretty fast.”
Pliskova is also into the doubles final, and after a couple of early round losses with so much expected of her, this was a bit of a relief.
She said: “I had the feeling before the tournament I need few matches in a row because I lost twice in the first round, so just happy that I have now a few under my belt. Especially like it’s important during this year in the next tournaments that I have few matches behind me. I think I played some good tennis this week, and especially there is Miami, and so I have chances to go and improve the ranking and get close to top 10 again.”
She will face Azarenka who ripped through her first set against Magdalena Rybarikova, who had a decent run this week after some awful times with injuries. The Slovakian had to take a medical time out having failed to get a game on the board.
Much like Pliskova, Azarenka roared out of the blocks with aggression, keeping a struggling Rybarikova on the move, blasting her way out through the first set and much to Rybarikova’s mounting frustration with her injury on the way to a resounding 6-0 6-0 trouncing.
Victoria Azarenka v Karolina Pliskova – H2H: 1-1
Azarenka’s first win over the Czech was on home turf for Pliskova in 2008, and she learned her lesson well, coming back at Azarenka some seven years later in Brisbane last year in the opening round, coming from a set down to beat a still-returning-to-form Azarenka.
A lot has happened for both players though, and the tour needs Azarenka to be back at the very top of the game, as younger players start to impose themselves more and more in the later stages of the tournament.
Pliskova plays a solid power game and the pace she was generating in her quarter-final will need Azarenka to match her toe-for-toe. The Belarusian has been nothing short of relentless, her only wobble this tournament was dropping a set to Sam Stosur in the fourth round. If she can get comfortably on the end of Pliskova’s hefty serves as well as pulling Pliskova in with her deft drop shots and stretching her with lobs, she should wind up in her second final of the year.
If Pliskova has been playing herself into form this week, Azarenka has maybe not been stretched enough especially in her quarter-final and this may not be the breeze she thinks it will be.
Azarenka said: “It doesn’t feel great knowing that your opponent struggled, because I have been on the opposite side of the net like this. But, you’re out there to win so you can’t really feel bad about it. But sometimes it is easier; sometimes it’s not.
“It just sometimes puts a little bit more pressure. But today I was just trying to focus on executing my shots rather than thinking what I have to do to make her move.”
With regards to facing Pliskova again, the last time they met she was still making her long way back from two wilderness years of injury. So how ready did she feel for a player who has made great strides up the rankings?
“It’s a good challenge. She’s a great player with so much talent and potential, and you could see, you know, in one year how much she improved already. Big serve, big hitter. So it’s going to be a lot of, I would say, short rallies (Smiling).”
Prediction: Azarenka in three sets.
Azarenka and Pliskova are scheduled on Stadium 1 not before 8:30pm (3:30am GMT).