By Ros Satar, in Cincinnati
- Karolina Pliskova  def. Garbine Muguruza  6-1 6-3
- Angelique Kerber  def. Simona Halep  6-3 6-4
- Kerber v Pliskova – H2H: Kerber leads 4-2
CINCINNATI, USA – Angelique Kerber has a chance to overtake Serena Williams for the World No. 1 spot with a win over Karolina Pliskova in Sunday’s final.
Karolina Pliskova  def. Garbine Muguruza  6-1 6-3
First into the final was Pliskova who came out swinging for the fences very impressively against the fourth seed Muguruza, who had yet to drop a set throughout the tournament.
In blustery conditions, the Czech made her adjustments very well, while Muguruza seems at odds with the wind, the court and the speed of the punch coming from the other side of the net.
Save for the first two games, Muguruza just was not at the races in the first set, as Pliskova broke her three times in a row to wrap up the first set sharply.
The green shots of a recovery briefly showed when for only the second time in the match, Muguruza had a sniff on Pliskova’s serve and it looked like the match was on.
That was short-lived though, as Pliskova held her nerve to pull the deficit back immediately, taking full advantage of some very weak serving today from the powerful Spaniard to break once more before finishing at a canter.
Muguruza, who was ill in Montreal, and made it to the third round of the far slower Rio conditions, and the quarter-finals of the doubles had no choice but to be fairly pragmatic of the loss.
She said: “I think I had a little trouble I think just serving in general, first and second serve. I don’t know. It’s one of those days where it was windy and you kind of don’t ever feel you’re striking the ball in the right way; you’re hitting in the clean spots. Well, it was needed today to serve well against her and it was not the case, so, yeah, didn’t go that well.”
Pliskova concurred, knowing that she had to take the game to Muguruza if she wanted a chance of reaching her third final this season.
She admitted that she knew it was all about who could handle the conditions, saying: “I knew have to be the first one who is attacking the ball and trying to make her move a little bit more. That’s what I did. I think she didn’t handle the wind today that good, so that’s why she did some double faults and not many first serves.”
All long levers, with a solid serve, good groundstrokes and not bad if she comes forward thanks to some regular doubles time with partner Julia Goerges, she knows she needs the same tactic on Sunday if she wants to rain on Kerber’s parade.
She added: “I have to be the first one who’s dictating the game. I cannot be the one who’s running.”
Angelique Kerber  def. Simona Halep  6-3 6-4
Running is just what Kerber will want to get Pliskova doing, after she came through a determined Halep in a match whose scores do not match the battle within.
Trading breaks back and forth a couple of times in the first set, Kerber did well to peg the Romanian back each time, before striking out on own at the end of her set and serving it out to love.
Kerber struck for home early in the second set, including breaking Halep in an epic game forcing her to save six break points before she finally succumbed on the seventh.
Yet from 4-0 up, Kerber found her lead etched away as Halep got one of the breaks back to come within a whisker off levelling. She could not, however, convert her break point, and Kerber kept that nudge ahead to book her spot in the final.
It is hard not to raise the subject of the World No. 1 with her, but there is no doubt this is the over-arching narrative of the week (apart from the rain), and Halep felt that this could well be the German’s moment.
She told reporters: “It’s a good thing for us that we are thinking — we have dreams to get there and win Grand Slams. I think she deserves to be there because she’s working hard. Like I said many times, she’s a good player. So we will see tomorrow. But she has a good chance.”
Kerber v Pliskova – H2H: Kerber leads 4-2
Kerber has had infinite patience in dealing with the endless questions – those who were in Singapore remember just how she fell apart at the prospect of winning a single set, how angry she was that someone had told her what was required.
Fast forward and there is a sense of confidence that Kerber belongs at this level. She took her chances in her first Slam final, she backed it up with a trip to the Wimbledon final, and now she is within clutching distance of the next natural accolade.
Kerber has a three-match winning streak against the Czech, who will try and be very aggressive from the outset to take the time away from the World No. 2. We know though that Kerber’s strength is to run everything down, and she will need to try and exploit Pliskova’s movement.
If Pliskova serves the way she did in the semi-final, Kerber will need to hone that skill of switching between attack and defence. This is winnable for Kerber, but on the form that Pliskova showed on Saturday, it will be quite a challenge.
She said, of the match-up: “For me, there are no favourites. Every match starts from zero and you are not in the final because you have luck. You have to play really good tournament to get to the finals. And also Pliskova plays really well the whole week, it will be another tough match.
“I played a lot against her and it was always close and tough battles. For me, there are no favourites. It’s 50/50 always when you go out there. You have to play your best, especially when you’re in the final. So that will be my goal. It’s step by step, and still one more step to go.”
Prediction: Kerber in three sets.
The women’s final is scheduled for 2pm (7pm BST).
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