SINGAPORE -- No.7 seed Karolina Pliskova clinched the first spot in the semifinals of the 2018 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global after dispatching her compatriot Petra Kvitova, the No.4 seed, 6-3, 6-4, in the final round-robin match for the two Czechs.
"I feel good," Pliskova said during her post-match press conference. "I was pretty positive even after the match that I lost against Svitolina. I think my game is just completely fine. There is no reason to panic or there is no reason to just feel bad about something. I think my shots are pretty solid, so I can play anywhere."
Former World No.1 Pliskova will contest the final four in Singapore for the second straight year, and reached another semifinal in style, picking up her first win in four meetings against her elder countrywoman after one hour and 22 minutes of high-octane play.
"It means a lot, and for sure, to get it to go to semifinals after beating [Kvitova], it's just special," Pliskova stated. "I know I'm pretty good playing three-setters this year, so I just believed I can win this match by having the first set done. I felt pretty confident actually out there. Yeah, pretty happy about my performance."
Pliskova had only six winners during the match but was by far the more consistent player on the day, breaking the vaunted Kvitova serve five times during the match behind incredible returning when facing second serves. Pliskova won nearly 70 percent of points when she saw a second delivery from Kvitova.
2011 WTA Finals champion Kvitova came unglued with 32 unforced errors, and ends the 2018 round-robin with an 0-3 record. Kvitova has a stellar record against her fellow Czechs, having won 27 of her last 29 matches against her countrywomen, but has lost two of those matches this year -- the other being to Pliskova’s twin sister Kristyna in Charleston in April.
In a battle between two of the biggest servers in the game, it was Kvitova who was unable to get a handle on her delivery in the early going. Kvitova dropped her first service game after firing three double faults, two consecutively to end the game. Pliskova then broke her countrywoman again for 4-0, crushing a return winner to take that game at love.
Kvitova recovered slightly, claiming one break back after a five-deuce game for 4-1, and regrouped from a 0-40 deficit to hold for 4-2, as the powerful Pliskova groundstrokes hit a rough, error-strewn patch.
But Pliskova regained her rhythm as the set reached its conclusion, using incredible depth to force errors and hold for 5-2, getting back on track. Two games later, a stunning forehand by Pliskova brought up a set point, which she converted to ease to the one-set lead after a long Kvitova return.
In the second set, Kvitova attempted to fight back and push the match into a third set, breaking Pliskova at love for a 2-0 lead, then staving off a break point with an ace in the following game to reach 3-0.
The Czechs exchanged breaks once more before Pliskova broke Kvitova to get back on serve for good at 4-3, as Kvitova’s forehand began to go awry once more. Pliskova then reclaimed parity with a hold for 4-4, completing her deciding-set comeback.
"[Kvitova] started to be more loose [in the second set], so of course it's happening with her that she can hit some winners, some good shots, some good returns, of course," Pliskova explained. "So I just tried to move her around and change the speed. I just believed I have weapons which can work against her, and I felt better on this surface, I guess, than her."
Kvitova lost the plot after her break lead disappeared, and dropped serve at love after another wide forehand. Serving for the match at 5-4, Pliskova squandered one match point with a long backhand miscue, but Kvitova fired her own error long on the second match point, allowing Pliskova to win a fourth straight game and book a spot in the Singapore semifinals.