“It’s amazing to beat a player like this. I don’t believe it.” - @KaPliskova #usopenhttps://t.co/p8tBQpMzR1 pic.twitter.com/jWtSRcx4YE— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 9, 2016
Karolina Pliskova's run at the 2016 U.S. Open has been quite impressive, though--if you just listened to commentators--you'd scarcely know that the rangy Czech star was even in the mix. Pliskova won her first big event, in Cincinnati, just a couple of weeks before the start of the Open. To get that win, she had to beat a red-hot Angelique Kerber in the final. All the same, the Czech's poor showing in majors (never getting beyond the third round) led many to believe she would ride her Cincinnati wave for a while and then crash in the early stages or the tournament.
Only she didn't. She made it to the round of 16, and then--before you could say "Ana Konjuh is the breakout player at the U.S. Open"--Pliskova had knocked out an extremely nervous Konjuh and reached the semifinals.
Pliskova, with her Kvitova-like English syntax, mellow demeanor, and intricate arm and leg body art, has become a Fed Cup beast. And while that doesn't always translate into domination at other events (here we are, right back to the subject of Kvitova), it certainly helps. Already having defeated Venus Williams in the round of 16, the Czech star's job tonight was to defeat Serena Williams. Serena was injured--she later said she hurt her knee in the second or third round--which made Pliskova's job easier.
We've all seen Serena play through various injuries, but tonight, she said, having an injury caused her to think about her knee rather than to focus solely on her game.
But this isn't to take anything away from Karolina Pliskova, who kept her cool throughout what had to be the most emotionally charged match of her career. Pliskova won 84% of her first serve points, which is a huge statistic. She also hit seven aces. Her 6-2, 7-6 victory made her the eighth woman to defeat both Williams sisters in one tournament, and the fourth woman to do so at a major.
While the television commentators rightfully heaped praise on the Czech player for her serve, it should be noted that Pliskova's return game was huge. She not only handled some of Williams's biggest serves, but steadily worked her way into rallies until she had the confidence that she could take control of the points. Her timing was that of a mature and elite player.
It should also be noted that Williams' quarterfinal match was a very tough one. Taken to three thrilling sets by Simona Halep, the world number 1 had to work very hard for a long time to get to the semifinals. Pliskova, for her part, had an easy time dispatching the suddenly very nervous Ana Konjuh, who had performed so brilliantly against Aga Radwanska.
The 18-year-old Konjuh, by the way, will be seen on a big stage again. She has a huge game, and her mental collapse in the quarterfinals is likely to be a "never again" moment for her.
Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki easily won her quarterfinal when her opponent, Anastaija Sevastova, sustained an injury early in the match. Sevastova (who took out 3rd seed Garbine Muguruza in the second round), played on, but she was clearly hurt and unable to move very much.
That put world number 74 (and former world number 1) Wozniacki into a semifinal contest against world number 2 Angie Kerber. Kerber defeated Roberta Vinci in the quarterfinals, and their first set was a thing of beauty, which the German won 7-5. But Vinci was done, and didn't win a game in the second set.
Before Kerber even stepped on to Arthur Ashe Stadium, she had a victory. Serena's loss meant that Kerber will be number 1 in the world when the new rankings are published on Monday. She would have become number 1 a couple of weeks ago had she defeated Karolina Pliskova in the Cincinnati final. So Pliskova kept her from getting the top ranking then, but tonight, was responsible for Kerber's rise to number 1. Funny.
Kerber defeated Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3. The German soon-to-be-number-1 hit 19 winners and made 16 unforced errors.
There was also exciting doubles semifinal action. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova defeated Olympic gold medal winners Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-2, 7-6, and top seeds Caroline Garcia and Kiki Mladenovic defeated Martina Hingis and CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-4.
Vandeweghe is still around, however. She and partner Rajeev Ram have made it to the mixed doubles final. Their opponents will be Laura Siegemund and Mate Pavic.