Karolina Pliskova meets Simona Halep in final

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Karolina Pliskova meets Simona Halep in final

Muruguza and Wozniacki suffer defeats in semifinal

By Rituraj Borkakoty (reporter/ Chief Sub Editor)

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Published: Sat 21 Feb 2015, 4:45 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 11:40 PM

Karolina Pliskova beats Garbine Muguruza 6-4 5-7 7-5. — KT photos by Shihab

Karolina Pliskova beats Garbine Muguruza 6-4 5-7 7-5. — KT photos by Shihab

Dubai: Two emerging stars overcame challenging conditions to produce compelling tennis on Friday at the Dubai Tennis Stadium. And in the end, it was Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova who left the centre court with a smile on her face, winning a bruising battle against the feisty Spaniard Garbine Muruguza.

In Saturday’s final, Pliskova will take on top seed Simona Halep of Romania who beat Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki 2-6 6-1 6-1 in the second semifinal.

Pliskova’s 6-4 5-7 7-5 win in the first semifinal of the day had many jaw-dropping moments and it was no less than a tennis marathon. Rarely does a best of three sets match last 2 hours and 57 minutes in women’s tennis. In blustery conditions, both players struggled to make an instant impact. The conditions were not really ideal for shot-making and hence two players born with the ability to hit the ball hard found themselves playing the waiting game in the first set.

The 21-year-old Muguruza, in particular, had issues with her serve. With Pliskova never missing a chance to punish the loose balls with ferocious forehands, the Spaniard often had to dig deep to hold her serve. Pliskova rarely had such trouble though. Her ability to produce the big serves came to the fore on Friday as she hit 13 aces, taking her tally to 144 (aces) in the last 20 matches.

On the few occasions that she faced breaks points, the 22-year-old player inevitably came up with some stunning winners to bail herself out. It was turning out to be quite a battle between two of the most talented youngsters in the game today. The first six games lasted 46 minutes and it was then that the decisive moment in the first set came. Pliskova, the world number 18, pounced on a few errors from her rival to get the first break of serve in the seventh game and then held her serve twice to take the 64-minute long first set.

As the conditions began to improve, Muguruza found another gear in the second set. The unseeded Spaniard enthralled the fans with some magnificent passing shots, but her rival was equal to the task. Pliskova simply refused to wilt and kept on unleashing her forehands to hurt Muguruza’s ambition of getting a break of serve.

The elusive moment finally came in the 12th game of a high quality set when Muguruza, the world number 24, finally broke her opponent in the match to take the set to the decider.

The best was saved for the last though. The third set produced some exhilarating tennis from both ends as though both were keen to prove why they have been rated so highly by the pundits. Their ability to keep hitting the winners was astounding. Muguruza’s backhand caught the eye and she looked equally assured with her forehand. Pliskova, who has the looks of a model, came up with some gorgeous winners of her own, especially in the crunch situations when there was that element of risk to her serve.

Incredibly, it was Muguruza who buckled under pressure in the 11th game when she faced three break points and Pliskova simply feasted on the first of them and punched the air. It wasn’t easy for her though in the next game as Pliskova found herself down love-40 and yet again managed find a way back, clinching an absorbing encounter in the second match point.

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