Karolina Pliskova is once again romping through Rome: the Czech reached her third consecutive final at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, as she overcame Petra Martic 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, to prevail in another three-set tussle this week.
"I think the first and third set, they were super solid for me, playing the game I want to play, not really going for crazy shots, but super solid," Pliskova told the press, after booking her return trip to the final. "Quite good serve today. I think it was a good match."
Pliskova, the 2019 champion and 2020 runner-up, claimed her second straight three-set victory -- she saved three match points in her quarterfinal clash with Jelena Ostapenko -- as she got her first clay-court victory over World No.25 Martic in their three meetings on the surface.
The one-hour and 54-minute match improved Pliskova’s career win-loss record in Rome to 14-5, as the former World No.1 moves into her first WTA singles final since reaching the final of this very event in October of last year.
"I hope I will feel better, and maybe more relaxed a bit, to go to the other tournaments in the next couple weeks, months, with this kind of result," Pliskova said. "With having the matches I had this week, overcoming some situations which I had this week, and beating some players: Martic, for example, I never beat on clay. For sure this gives me some strength."
No.9 seed Pliskova wrapped up the match with 37 winners to 31 unforced errors, while Martic's season-best run came to an end after her 20 winners were outpaced by 34 unforced errors.
Pliskova had things all her way in the opening frame. The Czech broke Martic in the very first game of the match and it was smooth sailing for Pliskova from there, as she fired 13 winners to just five unforced errors, and never faced a break point. Martic could only win two of her 13 second-service points in the first set.
However, Martic turned things around in the second set. The Croat earned her first three break points of the day in a ten-minute game at 2-2, and although Pliskova served her way out of that jam, Martic at last broke through in the Czech’s next service game to claim a break and lead 4-3.
Cracking forehands propelled Martic through the rest of the set, and the unseeded player was bolstered by a rising unforced error count from Pliskova to reel off the last four games of the set. In stark contrast to the opening set, Martic was the one who never faced a break point in the second set.
Pliskova took the early lead in the decider, using powerful returns to break Martic in a lengthy opening game. But Martic got back on serve shortly thereafter, breaking at love to level the set at 2-2 and keep the Czech in touching distance.
But that would be Martic’s last stand as Pliskova took control from there. A patch of forehand errors caused Martic to cede another break and a 3-2 lead to Pliskova, and the Czech earned a second break for good measure with a fierce forehand, moving ahead 5-2. In the next game, Pliskova foot-faulted away her first match point, but the serve was solid on the second, and Pliskova was back in the Rome final.
Earlier, No.15 seed Iga Swiatek booked the last spot in the semifinal lineup when she won her weather-delayed quarterfinal over two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina, 6-2, 7-5.
The clash was the only quarterfinal to never get on the court on Friday, but reigning Roland Garros champion Swiatek proved she could handle most any obstacle thrown at her, as she eased past the No.5 seed in an hour and 36 minutes to earn the third Top 10 win of her career.
The 19-year-old had never won a main-draw match in Rome prior to this week, and had three earlier victories in this event where she had to come back from deficits, including where she had to save two match points against Barbora Krejcikova in the previous round. But Swiatek was always in the lead against Svitolina, converting five of her 10 break points to oust the Ukrainian.
Svitolina, a back-to-back winner in Rome in 2017 and 2018 (both times over Simona Halep in the final) charged back from a break down in the second set but could not get over the line as her 13 winners were overwhelmed by 16 unforced errors.
Indeed, in the first set, each player had 10 unforced errors, but Svitolina had five winners while Swiatek had 12. The Pole’s big hitting led her to a 5-2 lead, and though she needed three set points in the next game before closing, Swiatek was never in peril as she notched the one-set lead in 36 minutes.
Svitolina at last got a break of serve early in the second set, but from 1-2 down, Swiatek swept three games in a row to lead 4-2. The impeccable footspeed of Svitolina, though, helped her pull back level, and with more winning backhands, the Ukrainian pulled herself to 5-5 as the contest intensified.
However, impressive forehands by Swiatek helped her grit out a hold for 6-5, and the teenager would not be denied in the next game, drawing forehand errors from Svitolina to break for a final time and reach the last four.