Czech tennis player Karolína Plíšková is now on the verge of her first ever Grand Slam singles final after sweeping easily into the last four of the US Open. There is one obstacle though in her way, the intimidating figure of world number one and tournament top seed Serena Williams.
Karolína Plíšková was already in uncharted territory when she stepped onto the court at Flushing Meadows to face talented 18-year-old Croat Ana Konjuh in the quarter-finals. Konjuh has already got a major scalp in the tournament by defeating Agnieska Radwanska, a former world number two.
But any thoughts of another upset were quickly dispatched by the 24-year-old lanky Czech. With her punishing serve and penetrating forehand, Plíšková looked the much more confident and didn’t give her opponent much chance to settle in. She sped to a 4:0 lead before the Croat stopped the rot temporarily and held serve but Plíšková easily cruised to take the set 6:2. And the script was largely the same in the second set with the number 10 seed again running out a 6:2 winner and wrapping up the surprisingly smooth confrontation in under an hour. Plíšková said in the on-court interview that her strong serve had been the main weapon in demolishing Konjuh.
Grand Slam tournaments have previously been a graveyard for Plíšková’s ambitions. Wednesday’s match was already the first time she had made it to a quarter-final of the big four tournaments, an exceptional statistic for a player in the world top 10.
But the Czech is currently on a 10-match winning streak. She came to the US Open on the back of victory at the Cincinnati tournament and a straight sets win over Angelique Kerber. Kerber had been poised to snatch the world number one position.
Plíšková now though faces the long time current number one, Serena Williams, who, after some shaky form of late, is out to prove that she is not to be dethroned so easily. By the way, Plíšková already in the US Open ousted sister, Venus Williams, from the tournament in a tough three setter.
Trainer Jiří Vaněk told Czech Radio that what we are now seeing is the sort of confidence on the singles court that Plíšková already demonstrated in Grand Slam doubles events. Added to that, he says his charge is stronger mentally and physically better prepared for the big matches. Apart from that, he told Czech Radio that it’s been largely a question of finetuning:
“What we have been focusing on is that she can move around the court and get into the net and volley. Apart from that we have not changed anything fundamental. The biggest progress has been with her mental preparedness. Added to that, she is a lot better prepared with her conditional trainer.”
Vaněk says that Serena Williams is certainly beatable and, has so clearly been showed recently, is not invincible. The head to head figures of the two players are not so encouraging, with Plíšková losing the last and only match against Serena in 2014. But perhaps a new Plíšková will be walking out on court this time round.
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