The final pits two of the hottest players of 2015 against each other. WTA Rising Star Pliskova, 23, is in the midst of a breakout season that sees her lead the tour in finals - this is her fifth of the season - and on the verge of making of her Top 10 debut on Monday, a remarkable run given she began the season outside the Top 60.
Kerber overcame a slow start to the season to put herself in the position of returning to the Top 10 - she will rise to No.11 on Monday. In the first three months of the year, Kerber posted a disappointing 8-9 match record and fell out of the Top 10. But since March she is 29-5 with three Premier titles under her belt. That's a remarkable haul considering that before this season she had won just one Premier-level event (Paris 2012).
"I think the turnaround was in Charleston," Kerber said. "I had before Charleston a few tough weeks because I was losing in the first and second rounds. But I was staying positive, actually. Trying to practice hard and believing in myself and my team was believing in me. In Charleston I don't know what happened there, but something worked."
Though she won her sole title of the season on clay in Prague, Pliskova's game is built for the hardcourts, and much like her compatriot Petra Kvitova, the quicker the surface the better. On Sunday she will go for her 40th win of the season, which would tie her with Serena Williams for the most match wins on tour. Her 26-8 record on hardcourts this year is a tour-best. It's no surprise that Pliskova has thrived in Stanford. The lively conditions at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium can perplex many players, especially after their post-Wimbledon break, but the the only player who has ever taken a set off Pliskova here is Serena.
Kerber leads the head to head 3-2 but the two have split their two meetings this season. Pliskova won their only hardcourt meeting of the year at the Apia International Sydney, winning, 6-3, 6-2, to advance to her first career Premier final (Stanford is her fourth Premier final of the season). Kerber got revenge on the grass, winning a hotly contested final at the Aegon Classic Birmingham, winning, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4) in over two hours.
"I'm looking forward to it actually," Kerber said. "The final in Birmingham was very close. I won it 7-6 in the third set. Against Karolina I know she has a big serve so I must try to return very well and move very well. And as I have been playing the whole week here, be aggressive and play my game."
Said Pliskova: "I played Angie a few times already and she's just tough to play. She's everywhere, she's hitting the ball pretty fast as well. She's lefty and every lefty girl is tough to play. I beat her already few times. Already she's beaten me a few times. And the last final we played was 7-6 in the third, which was an amazing match. It will be an amazing final for the people."
Pliskova admitted she was wary of her draw before the tournament, but the field helped pave a less difficult path, with Kimiko Date-Krumm (d. Liskick), Ajla Tomljanovic (d. Keys), and Varvara Lepchenko (d. Wozniacki) scoring big upset wins over the top players in her draw. Pliskova goes into the final without losing a set this week, with wins over Kimiko Date-Krumm, Ajla Tomljanovic, and Varvara Lepchenko. With each match, Pliskova has played better and better.
"She has such flat shots. They're not jumping and so low. You have to bend the knees, which is a little bit of a problem for me," Pliskova, who stands at 6 foot 1 inches, said with a laugh. "She also runs like crazy. It will be a really tough match for me."
This is a big opportunity for Pliskova, who despite leading the tour with five finals this year, is just 1-3 in her previous four. Winning her first Premier title, which would be the biggest title of her career, would be the perfect way to consolidate her Top 10 debut.
"I'm really happy to be in the Top 10 but I'm not thinking about it because it's not my large goal," Pliskova said. It was my goal for years but now I made it. There are a few more tournaments to go and I don't want to be satisfied with that."
The Stanford final begins at 2pm Pacific Time.