Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pliskova, Mirza and Strycova win in Cincinnati

.@KaPliskova captures @CincyTennis title!

From the Olympics to Cincinnati, Czech players have dominated WTA competition for the last few weeks. Today, world number 17 Karolina Pliskova won her biggest title to date when she upset world number 2 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-1 in just over an hour at the Western & Southern Open. And while much has been made of the pressure that Kerber must have felt over playing for the world number 1 ranking, the reality is that the German star was more likely just exhausted. Also, Pliskova played a superb and fluid match against her.

'I just tried everything today," Kerber said in her post-match press conference. "I had great three weeks, with a lot of emotion." Kerber won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Rio.

Pliskova had a lot of praise for Kerber's stamina, remarking that her opponent had played all the way to the final in Rio, then all the way to the final in Cincinnati, which was a testament to her fitness and endurance.

The tall Czech player took charge of the match immediately, getting to 4-0 before Kerber (or anyone) even had a chance to settle in. "I was still expecting during the match some complication as always it is in tennis...," the champion said later. She didn't get that complication, though. Pliskova hit seven aces and wound up with a first serve win percentage of 86. She also had an impressive winner-to-unforced error ratio of 24/16.

To get the trophy, Pliskova had to beat a two-time major champion (Svetlana Kuznetsova), the current French Open champion (Garbine Muguruza) and the current Australian Open champion (Kerber). She also beat Jelena Ostapenko and Misaki Doi.

Had Kerber won in Cincinnati, she would have taken over the world number 1 spot from Serena Williams.

Prior to the Kerber-Pliskova match, there was more Czech action on the doubles court. Santina, broken in half, nevertheless made an appearance, as Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza became opponents in the Cincinnati final. Hingis and her partner, CoCo Vandeweghe, had played just one match prior to the final: They had a bye in the first round, then were the recipients of two successive walkovers.

Mirza's teammate was Barbora Strycova, the Czech player who--with Lucie Safarova--won the bronze medal for doubles in Rio. Strycova, in fact, had played very well against Kerber during the third round of singles competition.

The pair fell behind quickly as Hingis and Vandeweghe rushed to a 5-1 lead in the first set. But Mirza Strycova and the Forehand of Fire got themselves back into the set and wound up winning it 7-5. They went up a break in the second set, but were broken when they served for the championship at 5-3. Their opponents then held, and a momentum change looked quite possible, but Strycova served it out for a 7-5, 6-4 victory.

In what may be a unique situation, the number 1 spot in doubles was also up for grabs, and Mirza has now claimed it; she and Hingis held it in tandem before. In another odd twist, the pair had to meet as opponents right after they split as a team. "It was going to happen eventually," Mirza said. "We had to play against each other at some point. I think it's better that it happened earlier, as soon as we came out, because next time it's obviously less difficult to play."

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