By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Karolina Pliskova [7] def. Serena Williams [16] 6-4 4-6 7-5
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – In what has to be one of the matches of the tournament, Karolina Pliskova came back from the brink to defeat Serena Williams to reach the semi-final for the first time.

 

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Karolina Pliskova [7] def. Serena Williams [16] 6-4 4-6 7-5

The expectation was short points, and straight sets for whoever could sustain the more aggressive play as Karolina Pliskova took on seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams.

Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-final of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne

Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-final of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

From the start of the match, that person looked to be Pliskova as she broke early for a lead, and put Williams, off to one of her slower starts, on the back foot. More on that foot later. Pliskova was the one continuing to put the Williams serve under pressure with four more break-points but could not convert for that valuable double-break cushion. She would stick to just the single break for the first set.

Although she had her knee taped, Pliskova’s movement was looking very solid as she opened up another break in the second set, but a little wobble saw Williams break straight back as she found her range and Pliskova’s momentum wavered, stalled and then seemingly nose-dived after Williams levelled the match.

Serena Williams in the quarter-final of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne

Serena Williams in the quarter-final of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Having jumped swiftly out to a 5-1 lead, a foot-fault on match point, and then straight after a sudden jarring on her foot as Williams was caught off-guard having to change direction suddenly saw Pliskova save herself with a break back.

Williams spent a few moments just holding the bridge of her foot and from that moment looked a lot more tentative, not really able to push up on her serve as much, as Pliskova broke to love to get things back on serve.

Williams was not done yet and pressurising the Pliskova serve with three match points, Pliskova gritted out three saves to hold her off before breaking Williams to love once more. It took three match points of her own to close out a remarkable come-back, and leaves Williams waiting once more for that chance to go for that elusive 24th Slam.

 

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Williams: ‘What can I do better’

Serena Williams in her press conference after the quarter-final of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne

Serena Williams in her press conference after the quarter-final of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Given the fracas of the US Open final, (not to mention the last time she had a contentious foot fault) Williams immediately addressed whether the impact of the jarring of her foot impacted her momentum, having lost six games on the bounce from that moment.

She told reporters: “I really hate calling the trainer out, to be honest. And at that point I didn’t feel like I needed it or I didn’t feel like it would be a big deal. So I just kept going.I like to just kind of tough it out, so to say.

“I think she just played well on my serve after that point. I think she just kind of started playing really, really good. I don’t think it had anything to do with my ankle, per se. I just think she was just nailing and hitting shots.

“There’s nothing I did wrong on those match points. I didn’t do anything wrong. I stayed aggressive. She just literally hit the lines on some of them. One she hit an ace, unreturnable serve. I can’t say that I choked on those match points. She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots. I can’t really say that it’s incredibly painful as opposed to what can I do better.”

 

Luck and taking chances

Karolina Pliskova press conference after the quarter-final of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne

Karolina Pliskova press conference after the quarter-final of the Australian Open 2019, Melbourne | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Pliskova, wearing a somewhat ineffectual looking knee strap that looked as though it would take off with a strong puff of wind, was anything but inhibited as her movement was a key factor in the first set and, as it turned out, in the decider.

Pliskova walked reporters through it: “When it’s 1-5 against you in the third. You don’t really feel like you’re going to win this match. I was playing well I think set and a half.

I think I could do better in the second set. I could put more pressure on her. I was break up. But suddenly I lost somehow momentum. I was not playing the same game what I was playing, which was working, till the set and break.

“She just went for it. She went for her serves. She went for the returns. She was just putting pressure on me. I was more passive. Then suddenly I got a chance too. You need luck, of course, because this is I think not happening often, maybe once in life.

“I just said, Like whatever. Maybe this can be over, but let’s just try this game. I played actually a good game I think going on 5-2. Then, you know, I said, Okay, let’s try to hold my serve. Then we will see what’s going to happen.

“She was already match point up in that 5-1 game. Lot of things happened I felt like in those games. I just felt a chance. I think she maybe got little bit, I don’t, for sure it was in her head. Lot of things happen. I saw a chance and I just took it.”

Pliskova will face US Open champion Naomi Osaka in the semi-final on Thursday.

 

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