The impressive reign of Simona Halep in Madrid continued, but not without a little pause for thought as she faced the ‘other’ sister in Kristyna Pliskova.
The first set looked like business as usual for Halep as she fought hard for her first break of the Pliskova serve, converting on her fifth try, and had a far easier job the second time around, closing out the first set for the loss of just one game.
In the second set, Pliskova had a little more about her and gave Halep a far harder time, putting the two-time defending champion under pressure early. It took a single break at the end of the set to put Halep in the driving seat to close out the match to love.
She said, after the match: “In the second set, really, she started to play really well. I think she served much better and I couldn’t do much with the return. But I served well, too. So, it was there. I feel like it was a very good match, the hardest here.”
A year ago, the other Pliskova was cannon fodder on Halep’s route to victory and has struggled with injury while her sister has soared to the top spot in the rankings and made a Slam final. But for the second time in as many weeks we have been close to a Pliskova battle on the main tour.
Halep continued: “She improved a lot since last year, we played together here, and she was different player. So, I’m really happy I could finish that second set. It’s always tough to play against the sisters. I always said that, because they have a strong serve. They can hit the ball very strong. So, it’s a very good win for me.”
We have been close twice now to the sisters playing each other, and just a couple of weeks ago in Stuttgart, the higher ranked Pliskova had press in stitches with her frank assessment of what that would look like!
But things have definitely improved for the ‘other’ Pliskova, as her sister described, after winning her match against Sloane Stephens.
She said: “I think we started to like clay a little bit more, both (laughs). By [her being] last year in the final in Prague and this year so far all her best results and the point which she’s having is all on clay.
“She played well in Charleston, then quarters in Prague, then four matches she won here so I think it’s good step to get back where she was, maybe last year where she was 35, so I think she’s in a good way now. I think she has a good clay game actually because she likes the drop shot a lot and she has some slices, she has the [leftie] kick serve which is tough, so I think on clay she can play well.”
However when it comes to Karolina facing Halep, she will have to try and few different things.
My draw is very shit (laughs) – no because having those three players – you can have them in the final or semis, but in first, second third round. And now Simona – that’s the last point on the cake.
I have to somehow fight with it. So for sure nothing to lose and for sure i know she likes this tournament after being two time champion and now back in the quarters. Yep I have to try something different a little than I as playing the last couple of matches against her.
Halep is also expecting a tough quarter-final as she bids to become the first WTA player to three-peat.
She said: “I know that the match will be very tough. So, I will be ready. I will focus on myself, like every match. And we’ll see what is gonna happen.”
Play will continue at the Mutua Madrid Open, starting at 12pm (11am BST).
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