By Ros Satar
- Karolina Pliskova  stunned Serena Williams  in straight sets to make her first Grand Slam final 6-2 7-6(5)
- Angelique Kerber  def. Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-3
- Pliskova and Kerber to clash in back to back finals – Pliskova beat her for the Cincinnati title
NEW YORK, USA – Karolina Pliskova stunned top seed Serena Williams to set up her second title clash in a row against new World No. 1 Angelique Kerber for the US Open title.
Karolina Pliskova  def. Serena Williams  6-2 7-6(5)
When Pliskova has a breakthrough, she does not do it by halves! Prior to this tournament she was the only Top 20 player yet to reach the R16 at a Slam, and has wrecked that stat by making simultaneous R16, quarter-final and semi-final debuts here, and now the final.
Pliskova, who overtook two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova as the Czech No. 1 in August, is already set to reach a new career high, and now stands on the brink of being the third player this year to claim a maiden Grand Slam title this year.
Her serving against Williams was on point, while the former World No. 1 struggled to stay on terms with Pliskova, looking hampered with a left leg injury and facing crushing blows from the other side of the net.
Pliskova struck first to break for an early lead in the first set and had no break point chances against the Czech at all in the first set, as Pliskova broke once more, going on to serve it out for the first set.
Pliskova would be the first to admit that her movement is still a big area for improvement, but it served her well as Williams struck first in the second set, only for Pliskova to break straight back in a far more competitive set.
The tie-break came to the worst end with a sixth Williams’ double-fault as she acknowledged after the match Pliskova’s progress.
As reported in WTATennis.com, Williams said: “”I think she’s been on tour for numerous years and she’s had some good wins. She was doing so well last year, was so close in so many finals, and I think maybe this was her year to really do well, at least here at the Open.”
Pliskova said: “I was pretty calm today. Before the match I felt a little bit like pressure, nervous. But when I stepped on the court I didn’t feel anything. I just wanted to win. Not just enjoy but to win.
“I knew I’m going to have my chances even if she’s playing her best. There is always a chance in those two sets. I was calm during the whole match. Even in the second set there was some complications. I was up a break.
“But it never can be so easy to play No.1 in the world. You cannot win, 6-2, 6-1, so I wasn’t expecting a match like this. I was prepared for anything, even if I would have lose the second set I would be ready for the third.”
Angelique Kerber  def. Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-3
The seemingly endless questions to Kerber about how she would feel as the new World No. 1 finally ended moments before she was due to step on court for her second US Open semi-final.
She had to put all thought of that out of her mind and focus on the matter in hand, which was getting past off-court friend Wozniacki, whose unseeded run of form has laid waste to two Top 10 players along the way.
Not that this made any difference to Kerber, who ripped through the first four games of the match forcing the Dane to play far more aggressively as she pegged back the deficit getting one of the breaks back and saving two set points, forcing Kerber to serve the first set out.
The momentum stayed with Kerber, who broke Wozniacki at the start of the second set, and a few games later for a double break cushion. Wozniacki was not done through, breaking Kerber to love as she served for the match, with the German retaliating to break for a place in her first US Open final.
As reported in WTATennis.com, Kerber said: “It was not so easy to go then on court, because I knew it actually before that if Serena lost, of course, that I will be the No. 1. So it was not so easy mentally, but I was trying to not put too much pressure on myself.”
It was a positive end for Wozniacki – who came into the tournament ranked No. 74 in the world, and should wind up somewhere inside the Top 30 when the new rankings come out on Monday.
Kerber  v Pliskova  – H2H: Kerber leads 4-3
One of the endearingly frustrating elements to Kerber is how she copes sometimes with the mental pressure of expectation around her. We saw an epic meltdown of volcanic proportions at the end of last season, and perhaps a sign that the nerves were still there in the Cincinnati final where Pliskova beat Kerber to deny her the World No. 1 ranking.
In a way it is ironic that the same person has now given her that accolade, as they face each other on Saturday for the big prize. It is a tight head to head, with wins going in pairs to either player and of course the Czech taking the latest honours.
There are a couple of three setters in the mix, both going to the German, and a couple of close fights early on in there head to heads, but Pliskova’s win over Kerber in Cincinnati looked deceptively easy, but it was a heavy workload for Kerber.
She had eschewed defending her Stanford title to head to the clay of Bastad where she ended up withdrawing with an elbow injury. But her tear through the US hard court season, peppered with a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics has made for a very long summer. She reached the semi-finals in Montreal, the final of Rio and Cincinnati, and now the final here.
For Pliskova, her decision to skip Rio certainly seems to have paid off and when it matters most too. It won’t have escaped her notice that she has been on the receiving end of two final losses to Kerber in a row, in Birmingham and Stanford last year. Is it her turn to win the next two on the spin?
Pliskova is fearless on court, but while her movement has improved, she is still vulnerable in that department. The key for Kerber will be to get her on the run. Allowing the Czech to dictate play from the back of the court will have Kerber running for miles – alas though that is exactly what Kerber is known for.
In the Australian Open final – shots many would have considered as clear winners came back at Williams time and again thanks to Kerber’s court coverage. Pliskova can expect more of the same in the final, and the German has yet to drop a set this tournament, while Pliskova had to come back from a set down against Venus Williams.
Kerber should do more with her lefty serve, and it is something that as at times cost her. Pliskova know her serve will get her plenty of free points, and Kerber will need to keep her return game sharp.
Right now Pliskova is on a 11-match winning streak, but the nerves around her maiden Slam will no doubt be a factor – then again Kerber conquered her own to start the year with her first Slam win. Will she bookend the year with another?
Prediction: Kerber in three sets.
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