Karolina Pliskova achieved a first with her win over Simona Halep, getting her first tour level win over the World No. 1 to book her spot in a second straight semi-final on the clay this season.
Perhaps there was the tiniest element of revenge from Pliskova as she put paid to Simona Halep’s quest for a third straight Madrid title, not to mention the dispatch of her twin sister Kristyna the day before.
Whatever Pliskova determined to do differently, it worked as she was able to defend successfully, coming back from break to immediately break back. Pliskova kept the pressure on, rewarded with a second break, although she was made to work for the set, failing to convert in two set points to break for it. Instead she opted to serve out the first set to love.
She struck first in the second set, keeping Halep at bay and effectively stopping her from being able to dictate in any way on the court, before breaking for the match.
It was a relatively philosophical Halep who faced the press after the match, as her winning streak in Madrid came to an end.
“I think she played really good today. She had contract with the lines and with the net (smiling). But all the credit to her. She really was moving very well and also hitting the balls, the serve.
“I didn’t play bad, in my opinion. I missed in some important moments. That’s why it went her way. But I’m not very disappointed about this match. She deserved to win. She played better. So next one.”
Given that the general focus 12 months ago was the prospect of Halep closing in on a potential first Grand Slam and the World No 1 ranking, the upheaval of coach Darren Cahill returning after a little forced break after Halep’s Miami meltdown, where was the Romanian’s mind-set now?
“I think much better. I don’t make a drama when I lose. I played okay, so I believe that I played okay. I cannot be upset. Of course, I’m sad about the [loss], but every match is important if you know how to take it. I will see tomorrow, after tomorrow, what I have to train again. I’m okay. I’m happy. So, no problems (smiling).”
Meanwhile Pliskova had been true to her word in doing some homework on Halep’s game, but the change in fortunes was a little deeper rooted than just watching for tactics, as she explained – joking that it was her first time in the press conference room this tournament.
“I did actually watch a little bit of the match what we played, some highlights. I was trying to play the same, just to believe from the first ball that I can beat her. That’s what I did today. I think that was the biggest change from the previous matches when we played.
“I never really thought I can beat her, but this time somehow today I felt like I will have for sure chances. Even the warmup I felt so good today. I think I played one of my best matches this year for sure, and for sure on clay in my life.”
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