Both Kerber and Pliskova will go into the final feeling confident, but the German has the advantage because she has built up her confidence gradually over the past two years as her form has got better and better. This will give her total certainty and belief in what she is doing on the court.
While Pliskova has also played well during the same time period, it is only in the past month that she has kicked into another gear and reached a level similar to Kerber’s. If she falls behind, doubts will form in her mind. The German, however, will not be deterred if the Czech goes ahead, as she will believe in her ability to turn it around.
Saturday’s US Open final will be Kerber’s third Grand Slam final of the year, so she will know exactly what to expect. This is also her 14th year on the WTA tour and she has played in 23 tour finals, so she is completely used to the pressure and the expectation and knows how to deal with the nerves.
It is a completely new situation for Pliskova – who had never even reached a Grand Slam fourth round before the tournament began – and she will soon realise that a final is so much different to any other round. How she handles the pressure could determine whether Kerber wins in two or three sets.
Opponents must be fearful every time Kerber positions her body to hit a forehand. The new World No. 1 has the ability to land it wherever she wants in the court at virtually whatever pace she wants to hit it.
It is such a destructive weapon, and never more effective than when the German hits it low and flat down the line. Because it keeps low, it is almost impossible for opponents to get to, let alone return. And if Pliskova tries to cover the forehand down the line in the final, expect Kerber to whip it devastatingly across court instead.
Her semi-final against Wozniacki showed just how Kerber’s movement is. The Dane is a great mover and she uses it to her advantage against most opponents as they cannot keep up with her. But Kerber got to even more balls than Wozniacki in their match and typically returned them with interest, which nullified one of the Dane’s key strengths.
Kerber’s excellent movement will be even more decisive against Pliskova, who has admitted she still needs to improve in this area. The German will drag the Czech around court during points until Pliskova simply cannot get into position quickly enough to return the next ball. Kerber will also use her ability to change direction rapidly to wrong-foot her Czech opponent and gain easy points.
One of the reasons Pliskova beat Serena Williams was their similar strengths. Both are very good servers with powerful groundstrokes and relatively weak movement and defence. The Czech won because she executed her skills more effectively during the match.
Kerber is a totally different opponent. Unlike Serena, she makes very few unforced errors and is arguably the best defender on the WTA tour at the moment. The German’s ability to retrieve seemingly lost causes is exceptional. Imagine the situation: Pliskova hits a low forehand that seems certain to be a winner, but Kerber gets there and digs out a return which turns the tide of the point.
Kerber does this kind of thing over and over again during matches and the way she has combined it with more potent attack in 2016 is one of the key reasons why she now sits proudly at the top of the world rankings.
Kerber and Pliskova will play in the US Open Women’s singles final on 10 September at 4pm (9pm BST).
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