Pliskova’s Roman Romp Lands Her In Final

Karolina Pliskova (photo: @InteBNLdItalia/Twitter)

ROME/WASHINGTON, May 15, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

There’s something about Rome that always seems to agree with Karolina Pliskova. Whether it’s the clay or the Foro Italico atmosphere – or even a chance to enjoy Roman sights like the Vatican – the World No. 9 from the Czech Republic always seems to play some of her best tennis each year in the Italian capital city.

On Saturday, the 2019 champion and 2020 finalist reached her third straight Internazionali BNL d’Itlaia final with her 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 victory over No. 25 Petra Martic of Croatia in one hour and 54 minutes. Pliskova fired eight aces and hit 37 winners that overcame her 31 unforced errors. She broke Martic’s serve six times in 13 attempts and saved seven of 10 break points she faced. Martic hit 20 winners but committed 34 unforced errors. Pliskova outpointed Martic 91-76.

The win was Pliskova’s second straight three-set triumph, coming a day after she saved three match points in her quarterfinal tussle with Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia. She’s the only Top 10 player remaining in the draw and will meet reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who beat American teen prodigy Coco Gauff, 7-6 (3), 6-3, in one hour and 46 minutes, in Sunday’s final.

“I love to play matches; I love to play three sets. The body is doing great,” said Pliskova, during a post-match interview with Tennis Channel‘s Prakash Amritraj. “Of course, yesterday took more mental strength than physical because it was super intense, match points down. It was not easy, but I think it helped me to get a better feeling for my tennis game. I was playing great today, much better than yesterday. It was important I got the win yesterday; today was much better.”

With Pliskova’s latest triumph on Campo Centrale, she’s now 14-5 lifetime in Rome and has reached not only her first WTA final of the year, it’s her first one since Rome last year when the tournament was played in October after the tour’s summer restart.

“I’ve enjoyed playing Rome for the past couple of years,” Pliskova admitted. “Three finals in a row, that’s the best tournament ever for me so far. Of course, I think I’m playing some great tennis.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova)

Swiatek wins battle of the teens over Gauff

World No. 15 Iga Swiatek won the battle of the teenagers over Coco Gauff, 7-6 (3), 6-3, in the second semifinal, which was played on the Grand Stand Arena. The 19-year-old Polish star, who turns 20 on May 31, hit 25 winners and converted three of four break points to advance to her second WTA final of 2021. It was the first meeting between Swiatek and the No. 35 Gauff, the two highest-ranked teenagers in the WTA rankings.

After Swiatek broke early for a 2-1 lead on a double fault by Gauff, the American rallied to level the match at 4-all with a break of her own. Each held their serve to force a first-set tie break, which Swiatek dominated by jumping out to a 6-1 advantage and won on her third set-point opportunity.

Ahead 5-1 in the second set, Swiatek fought through a late break of her serve by Gauff and won on her third match-point after the 17-year-old hit a forehand return long that capped an eight-shot rally. She outpointed Gauff 79-67.

“It’s always hard to play against a young superstar, especially when I’m not used to that because I was always the youngest one,” Swiatek said during her virtual press conference. “I just tried to have a high level of energy, even though it was my second match. I was feeling really good [receiving]. I know her biggest weapon is serve, so I tried to use that. Also tactically I did everything really well.”

Earlier in the day, the No. 15 seed Swiatek reached the semifinals with a 6-2, 7-5 win over World No. 5 and two-time Rome titlist Elina Svitolina in one hour and 36 minutes. It was Swiatek’s third Top 10 win of her career. She hit 25 winners and broke the fifth-seeded Svitolina five times in 10 tries. She outpointed the Ukrainian 67-53.

Come Sunday, Swiatek will play in her first WTA 1000 final, looking to win her second title of year following her success at Adelaide in February. A spot in the WTA Top 10 rides on the outcome.

“I’m feeling pretty confident on court,” Swiatek said. “If my game is going to be there tomorrow, I can do anything.”

By the numbers