Former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova credits steady improvements and match momentum with helping to end the Sunshine Swing with a win over nemesis Simona Halep and her biggest final since the 2016 US Open.
David Kane
March 29, 2019

MIAMI, FL, USA - Not even a 1AM press conference could steal any joy from the typically low-key Karolina Pliskova, who emerged from a Hard Rock Stadium side door with her fist aloft.

GALLERY: Story of the Miami Open semifinals - Pliskova pushes past Halep

"Finally, I made it to the main room!" she joked as she mounted the steps to sit at the Miami Open podium.

The three-time WTA Ace Leader had just made it through the rain and longtime nemesis Simona Halep, against whom she hadn't won a game in a pre-tournament practice, to not only reach her first Premier Mandatory final but also her biggest since finishing runner-up at the 2016 US Open.

"[Confidence] helps so much. You know, when you win couple matches, then you just see the ball without even practicing or without even thinking about it."
Karolina Pliskova

"It's a great hit always, with Simona," she explained after a 7-5, 6-1 victory. "I'm never gonna say no, because no matter how bad I play or how the practice is, I think she's always fighting, so she always makes you play some extra balls, which in the practice it's good always."

Despite her more aggressive default, Pliskova displayed a willingness to beat Halep at her own game on Thursday night, running down numerous balls on an epic set point. The Czech powerhouse even unveiled a heretofore unseen finesse as the second set wildly swung in her favor.

"I'm trying to be running more. Maybe in the past there were some points and balls where I was just, you know..."

Pliskova comically turns her head.

Simona Halep, Miami Open, Miami, Karolina Pliskova

"...looking at the ball. So now I always try to at least make a step or at least a move. So that's positive. With the set points I was just ready to give everything, no matter how much I need to run. She always makes me run a lot, because she never plays same corner much more than two times. So I was ready to fight."

The fight with Halep was just the latest in late-night battles for the 27-year-old, who'd already had to overcome epics with Alizé Cornet and Yulia Putintseva just to make it into her third semifinal of the season.

"I have been running a lot this week with all those girls and a I made it to a lot of dropshots. So I think I'm ready for some running, for some defense, as well.

"Of course the confidence, it helps so much. You know, when you win couple matches, then you just see the ball without even practicing or without even thinking about it. So I think it all is because of the matches."

Another challenge surely looms in Saturday's final against fast-rising Aussie Ashleigh Barty, who has played Pliskova tough in all three of their previous tour-level matches, though the Czech isn't thinking too far back on their head-to-head.

"I can't remember any other than US Open. So I don't know. I think we played long time ago, but this is the last one where we played."

Ever a student of the game, Pliskova pauses to recall one more meeting.

"Yeah, and I lost in Wuhan, I know," she laughed. "I think she has a completely different style than the girls I've played. She's also trying to go for some winners. She has a slice backhand, she has a good serve, she can move pretty well on the court, so she understands the game well, I think.

"So it's going to be not only about me this time, which, actually now a lot of matches were about me more. So I need to accept when she's playing well, and I know I can beat her. I played great in New York against her, so I try to repeat it."

Karolina Pliskova, Miami Open, Miami

While Barty is back on court for a doubles semifinal with new partner Victoria Azarenka, Pliskova can rest easier having finished her rain-addled singles match without an overnight delay, take in a short practice, and formulate a plan with a Conchita Martinez-led coaching team that will help her end the Sunshine Swing with a second title of 2019.

"I think I have the better serve. She has good serve, too, and I think we can both hold. So it's gonna be about maybe couple points, couple chances. I know last time we played - or every time we played - it was maybe one break each set or maybe some tie-breaks.

"It's gonna be about small chances, but I still have to go for it. I have to serve well, play aggressive, and there's gonna be a chance."