No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova hit a career-best 21 aces to dispatch Dominika Cibulkova in three tough sets and reach her 18th WTA final at the Qatar Total Open.
WTA Staff

DOHA, Qatar - No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova survived double duty on Friday, winning her first match against No.3 seed Dominika Cibulkova, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, to reach the final of the Qatar Total Open.

Pliskova had already made it through a quarterfinal encounter with Zhang Shuai between multiple rain delays, but an even bigger test loomed in the reigning BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion, whom she'd never beaten in three previous encounters.

"I'm really excited, especially after what a long, tough day it's been," she said during her on-court interview. "Having two wins today is amazing, and I just beat Domi for the first time in my life. It was tough conditions, and so I don't think it was the best tennis out there. But it's a win, so it counts."

The forecast favored the Slovak for most of the week, as she was the only of the four semifinalists to make it through on Thursday. That advantage appeared evident from the outset, but Pliskova soon found her rhythm, recovering from an early break to win the final four games of the opening set.

Undeterred, Cibulkova raced out to a 4-0 lead in the second and held on to level the match and take the momentum into the decider.

A tense finale followed as the pair traded confident service games until 3-3, when the World No.5 held two break points. With the help of a career-best serving day (21 in the match), Pliskova saved both in quick succession and, with the wind at her back, swept the conclusion after nearly two hours on court.

In all, Pliskova maintained impressive numbers from the back of the court, hitting 40 winners to just 16 unforced errors, and just one double fault in the face of those 21 aces.

"That definitely gave me more confidence," she said of the crucial seventh game, adding, "and then getting on this side of the court, I got to play with the wind, so that helped, as well. I knew I had a chance to break her, and I did; I always believe I can break her, so I'm really excited to win the third set."

Standing between Pliskova and a second title of 2017 is the winner of the second semifinal between former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and Olympic Gold medalist Monica Puig.

"Right now, I'm just really happy. I'm going to rest a little bit now, enjoy that I won two matches in one day - that doesn't happen every day! Then I'll get ready for the final."