STUTTGART, Germany -- Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic became the first Czech player to ever reach the final in Stuttgart, as the No.5 seed moved into the championship match at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Saturday by easing past Estonia's Anett Kontaveit, 6-4, 6-2.
In the first meeting between the two players, Pliskova had no struggles on serve to get past Kontaveit in 65 minutes. The powerful Czech had 22 winners, including six aces, to only nine unforced errors, and she never faced a break point throughout the encounter as she slid into her first final appearance of 2018.
"I found my rhythm in the end of the first set," Pliskova told the media after the match. "In the second set, I felt okay and the serve was there, the shots were much better. I was just hitting it more clean than in the first one, and I felt like I had so many chances on her serve in the first couple of games in the first set but couldn’t just make it, did so many mistakes on the returns."
"I was not really feeling well my game," Pliskova continued. "I guess it’s important for me even to win matches like this when I don’t feel well."
Pliskova will face unseeded wild card CoCo Vandeweghe in the final. The American picked up her third Top 10 win of the week with a straight-set semifinal victory over No.6 seed Caroline Garcia, 6-4, 6-2, earlier on Saturday. Pliskova and Vandeweghe will battle as each hopes to claim their first title of the season. Vandeweghe leads the head-to-head by three wins to two.
"We played last year here a very close match," said Pliskova, referring to their encounter in the round of 16 in 2017, which Pliskova won. "With her it’s always a close match. We always play some tiebreaks, close sets. So, I think it’s going to be few points [that make a difference]."
"I have to be ready for good serves, for a lot of winners," Pliskova elaborated. "I think she was playing very well today what I saw, a couple of games against Caro [Garcia]. And she is a very confident player. So, I just have to make everything possible to just stay on my serve, to hold my serve."
Both players opened the match serving well, but Pliskova found cracks in the Kontaveit delivery at 2-2. The Estonian, who had survived a marathon match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the previous round, hit two double faults in that game to give Pliskova three break points. Kontaveit was lucky to escape that game with a hold, after miscues off the backhand side by the Czech.
Pliskova did eventually strike first, however, climbing to 30-30 on Kontaveit’s serve at 4-4 via a backhand winner. The World No.6 then allowed Kontaveit to self-destruct, as the Estonian hit forehand unforced errors on the following two points to hand the initial break of the match to Pliskova, and give the higher-ranked player a chance to serve for the opening frame.
The single break was all that Pliskova would need to take command of the match. Serving at 5-4, the Czech opened the game with an ace, and after two misfired returns by Kontaveit, Pliskova closed out the game and the set with another ace. Pliskova’s serve was impenetrable in the opener, as the Czech never needed to fend off a break point in the first set.
Pliskova very nearly kicked off the second set with a bang, jumping ahead to 0-30 on Kontaveit’s serve in the first game. But the hard-hitting Estonian was unwilling to give up the fight just yet, clawing ahead in the game with a forehand winner down the line before holding her serve.
Nevertheless, the momentum was with the Czech, and she was able to edge ahead during Kontaveit’s next service game with some powerful returning, ultimately claiming a pivotal break to lead 2-1. Pliskova continued to be untroubled on her serve, and took a double-break advantage to lead 5-2 after the World No.31 from Estonia double faulted multiple times in the game.
Pliskova finished the second set the same way she finished the first: with an ace. When all was said and done, Pliskova had not dropped a point on her serve throughout the entire second set. "I actually saw the statistics now when I was stretching," exclaimed Pliskova, "and I was even surprised because I didn’t feel like that I didn’t lose a point on my serve, and I think it’s not happening really."
"But I was feeling the serve very well in the second set, a lot of first serves, and obviously I think she was a little bit down," Pliskova continued. "So that was also like from both sides, I was serving well, she was not feeling well. So, I think that was the difference."
Thus, the former World No.1 moved into her first title match since she won at Eastbourne last summer, and will take on Vandeweghe in hopes of claiming her tenth WTA singles title.