BRISBANE, Australia - In a battle of two former champions, it was Karolina Pliskova who survived a marathon effort against Kaia Kanepi in the quarterfinals of the Brisbane International on Thursday, coming from a set down to record a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory.
“I was little bit surprised the first set and a half how she played. I knew how she's playing, but I think she played very good,” Pliskova assessed of the match.
“For that big risk what she was playing, she had almost zero mistakes, so I think she was playing very well. The only thing what I could do is just wait for my chance, and I got it.”
Trailing by a set and a break at 6-3, 3-1 in the match against the 2012 champion, last year’s winner in Brisbane managed to author her first comeback victory in the early season.
Breaking back immediately in the fifth game of the second set, Pliskova earned the decisive break of serve in a key 5-5 game, and won seven of the last nine en route to the win.
Following the match, Pliskova admitted she was surprised by the qualifier’s level, despite being well aware of the pedigree of the former World No.15 and six-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist.
“I know she was very good before, and we played matches and I remember it was also very tough,” Pliskova continued. “She won here, so I expected that she's going to play well but not that fast and not that risky. And like I said, I think she was not missing much the first set and a half.
“I felt was she played pretty deep shots..and then also the speed. I think her serve was quite good, even the second serve. I was just trying to somehow stay there, close in the games. I think she was just tired the third set and also some mistakes came, which was normal.”
By the close of the two hour, 11 minute encounter, Pliskova tallied a whopping 42 winners to just 31 unforced errors, with 33 of those winners coming in the second and third sets.
The Czech also hammered 15 aces, winning over 70% of the points played behind her first serve, and did not face a break point in the decisive final set.
Conversely, Kanepi struck 12 winners to just five unforced errors en route to building a one set lead, finishing the match with a total of 32 winners to 40 unforced.
After not facing a break point in her first four service games, the Estonian struggled with a total of 10 double faults across the second and third sets, forcing her to face 12 break points in total.
Though Kanepi saved eight of those chances, the Czech utilized her opportunities behind Kanepi’s second serve, winning nearly 65% of those points.
Pliskova will face No.3 seed Elina Svitolina for a spot in the final for the second straight year, after the Ukrainian battled from a set down to eventually advance when Johanna Konta retired due to a right hip injury at 1-6, 7-6(6), 3-2.
The Czech recorded a 6-2, 6-4 victory in last year’s semifinals en route to her first title of 2017.
“We didn't play for a while. The last one was on clay - it was close, but was clay, so that's a different story,” the Czech, who leads the head-to-head between the two, 5-1, said.
“She improved so much from what we played last year here. It was quite straight in two sets. It was -- I don't think it was that tough match, but from that time I think she did a lot outside the court, on the court. Mentally, she improved so much.
“I think it's going to be tough and not easy at all, but I have my game so I have a chance.”