|Photo by Frank Oplanic|
Though Angelique Kerber was somewhat favored to win the tournament, so was Simona Halep. And both played really well--until they didn't. In their defense, they (and Aga Radwanska) went from Rio to Cincinnati, and it wasn't an easy journey. (For Radwanska, it was a bit of hell on Earth). Pliskova, on the other hand, didn't attend the Olympic Games and wasn't suffering from the physical and mental fatigue that the other three were.
But there was more to it than that. Pliskova played better and better in each round at the Western & Southern Open. By the time she reached the final, she was in high gear. (And just for the record--the champion hit 47 aces while she was in Cincinnati.) Anyone who was watching would have noticed that the Czech player was on her way to a possible breakthrough. Pliskova, by the way, is the first Czech player to win the Cincinnati title.
Much has been made of Kerber's lost chance to take over the number 1 ranking. As I wrote earlier, exhaustion appeared to play a more important role in the world number 2's loss than any pressure that she may have felt. Karolina Pliskova played an important role, too.
With both number 1 rankings on the line, it seemed only fitting that the two faces of Santina would survive until the final day of play. With their new partners, Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis faced each other in a match that contained much more drama than the singles final. Mirza, the first Indian woman to ever become world number 1 in doubles, has now returned to that spot. She and Barbora Strycova, playing together for the first time, are to be commended. And then there was this, from their press conference:
Strycova: "I think we have similar personality traits. She's calmer on the court.."
Mirza: "That's not tough to do."
It rained every day of play in Cincinnati, and parking lots became lakes of mud that sucked cars down, making it necessary for tow trucks to pull out a number of vehicles. Mulch was added to the parking lots daily. Matches were postponed, and also constantly interrupted, sometimes more than once. Somehow, everyone got caught up, though some players had to play two matches in one day. Between the Olympics and the rain, this year's Cincinnati tournament was a special
challenge for many players.