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Wozniacki outduels Pliskova to notch 1st No. 1 win, reach Rogers Cup semis

Friday, August 11th, 2017 at 8:57 pm , filed under Tennis News by

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TORONTO – Karolina Pliskova’s first tournament as the world No. 1 ended Friday in the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup, with a 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4 loss at the hands of Caroline Wozniacki.

For Wozniacki, herself a former No. 1, it was the first-ever victory over an incumbent top-ranked player. For Pliskova, it was a disappointing result brought on by a series of missed opportunities.

The match took a while to get going, as sporadic showers kept interrupting play, sending the players back into the locker room on three separate occasions. When they played early on, though, Pliskova was in complete control, bullying Wozniacki from the baseline and grabbing two breaks. But she failed to serve out the set at 5-1, the final rain delay arrived right afterward, and everything changed from there.

Both were different players coming out of the break. Pliskova started to miss with the howitzers that had been finding the court, and consequently grew a bit more tentative. Wozniacki, somewhat uncharacteristically, responded by getting a bit more opportunistic, dictating with her backhand and moving Pliskova side to side. In all, she reeled off six straight games, serving up a virtual bagel to steal the set.

“I thought she started off really strongly, and she was attacking and playing really, really well,” Wozniacki said after the match. “After that, I feel like I stepped a little bit closer to the line just to try and take away a little bit of time. And once I got on a roll, I started serving better. Other than that, I just tried to stay steady, tried to take the ball on the rise, tried to stay aggressive when I could and keep my serves aggressive too.”

Pliskova recovered to win the second set, finding some enormous and timely backhands in the tiebreaker. But after going up a break in the decider to put the match on her racket, things went sideways. Serving at 4-3, she committed a double-fault and three unforced errors to get broken at love. Pliskova couldn’t clean things up, the errors continued to mount, and the sturdier Wozniacki closed it out.

One match is not a referendum on anything, but in a clash of two players who reached the top of the sport using dramatically different styles – Pliskova with boom-or-bust offense, Wozniacki with defense and fitness – it was interesting to hear how the current No. 1 reflected on the outcome.

“I don’t think she started to do something better,” Pliskova said. “She didn’t have any chances to change something in the game, she just had one plan I think. … I just (made) some mistakes. I was going for my shots but my legs were not moving that good, so that’s why I (made) the mistakes.”

Pliskova seemed to bemoan her role as the aggressor, suggesting that being the player who typically has to decide when to try end the point can be both physically and mentally taxing.

“She just put everything back, even my serves, even some of the ground shots, so it was just tough for me to close it,” she said of Wozniacki. “I think it’s tough to play somebody like this. All those girls like (Simona) Halep and (Elina) Svitolina, they’re defending no matter what. And you still have to go for your shots, even if it’s close like this, even after you go two hours in the match, it’s just tough sometimes to do only the winners and be the one who is aggressive.”

If that sounds like hand-wringing, though, Pliskova made clear that she has no intention to play any other way, unless it’s to be even more forceful.

“There’s no Plan B for me, but sometimes it just changes during the match, depends on the opponent, depends how I feel,” she said. “I still think I could be more aggressive than I am. It’s something I’ve been working on and something I want to improve, but no other plans than the one, and that’s to be aggressive.”

Every approach has its merits, certainly, but on Friday it was slow and steady that won the race.

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