En­durance test

Caro­line Woz­ni­acki sur­vives marathon match against world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova to ad­vance to women’s semi­fi­nals

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS - DAVE HILSON dhil­son@post­media.com @dav­e_hil­son

TORONTO — World No. 6 Caro­line Woz­ni­acki said af­ter her vic­tory over newly minted world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova on Fri­day at the Rogers Cup that she wasn’t both­ered by their marathon match be­cause she has run a marathon be­fore.

It was prob­a­bly good train­ing.

Woz­ni­acki ex­acted a bit of re­venge on Pliskova by out­last­ing her Czech op­po­nent 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 dur­ing a match that, all said and done, took five hours to com­plete, with al­most three of those hours com­ing in on-court ac­tion.

“It was def­i­nitely a lit­tle eas­ier,” Woz­ni­acki said in com­par­ing her vic­tory over Pliskova at the Aviva Cen­tre to run­ning a marathon.

“Both are fun, both are dif­fer­ent. Ob­vi­ously, this is my job and this is what I do, and I kind of know what to ex­pect.”

Pliskova, mean­while, wasn’t ex­actly blam­ing the rain on her loss to her Dan­ish op­po­nent, who she has beaten twice in fi­nals this sea­son (at Doha and East­bourne), but she def­i­nitely hinted at it.

Af­ter their match started a full two hours late due to in­clement weather, Pliskova, play­ing in her first tour­na­ment as No. 1, stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first set. Then the rain came down again and the two play­ers had to leave the court. While the sub­se­quent de­lays didn’t last too long and Pliskova man­aged to go ahead 5-1, she never quite looked her­self again. Missed over­hand smashes, fore­hands go­ing long or into the net, a shaky first serve, it all added up to a vic­tory for for­mer world No. 1 Woz­ni­acki.

“I felt okay af­ter the first two breaks, but af­ter the third one (when she was up 4-1) I started to feel a lit­tle tight,” Pliskova said. “Go­ing on the court and off the court, hav­ing some kind of warmups be­fore I went on the court just was not enough. Af­ter the last break, I felt a lit­tle bit tight and tired over­all.”

Not that any­thing should be taken away from Woz­ni­acki, who dropped her first set of the tour­na­ment. She played well and made ad­just­ments Den­mark’s Caro­line Woz­ni­acki pre­pares to hit a ball back to the Czech Re­pub­lic’s Karolina Pliskova in her rain-de­layed quar­ter­fi­nals vic­tory at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. where nec­es­sary.

“I thought she started off re­ally strongly and was at­tack­ing and play­ing re­ally, re­ally well,” Woz­ni­acki said of Pliskova. “Af­ter that, I feel like I stepped a lit­tle bit closer to the line just to try and take away a lit­tle bit of time. Once I kind of got on a roll, I started serv­ing bet­ter. But other than that, I just tried to stay steady, tried to take the ball on the rise and tried to stay ag­gres­sive, on my serves, too.”

Mis­sion ac­com­plished there.

But Pliskova had 44 un­forced er­rors and that usu­ally isn’t good enough to win in ten­nis.

Woz­ni­acki, who had a point when she said af­ter that they were both play­ing in the same con­di­tions, reeled off six straight games to take the first set, and Pliskova was clearly frus­trated.

With the first set tied 5-5, she slammed her racket to the ground af­ter fail­ing to go af­ter a shot she thought was wide. It wasn’t, it gave Woz­ni­acki, who won this tour­na­ment in 2010, a 6-5 edge and the even­tual set vic­tory.

Pliskova forced a third set with a pre­ci­sion back­hand down the line to win the tiebreaker in the sec­ond. And then when it seemed like she might pre­vail up 4-2 in the third, Woz­ni­acki came back.

“I think the game was very open at 4-2,” Pliskova said. “So if I would break her again, I think it was few good ral­lies where I could, you know, play a dif­fer­ent way. I think that was maybe the key in the third set be­cause then, over­all, I didn’t play well, but she just put ev­ery­thing back, even my serves, even some of the ground strokes. So it was tough for me to close it.”

Their match wasn’t the only one af­fected by the rain.

Sloane Stephens’ af­ter­noon tilt against Lu­cie Sa­farova of the Czech Re­pub­lic had to be moved from cen­tre court to the grand­stand af­ter the Woz­ni­acki-Pliskova match ran so late. Stephens, a for­mer world No. 11 who has slid all the way down to No. 934 af­ter miss­ing 11 months due to a foot in­jury, was able to dis­pose of No. 41 Sa­farova 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 just be­fore the skies opened up again at night.

This is just the third tour­na­ment for the Florid­aborn Stephens since re­turn­ing from the in­jury and she said she was pleased by the re­sult.

“Last week (in the Bank of the West Clas­sic), I was just hop­ing to win a match at some point and beat some­one, so I’ve turned it around pretty quickly and I can be proud of that. But there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Stephens, who will now face Woz­ni­acki in the semis on Satur­day.

The other semi­fi­nal was still to be de­ter­mined.

Wim­ble­don win­ner and world No. 4 Gar­bine Mugu­ruza’s match against Elina Svi­tolina of the Ukraine was sus­pended by rain, while last year’s win­ner in Montreal, Si­mona Halep the world No. 2 from Ro­ma­nia, had yet to step on the court against world No. 21 Caro­line Gar­cia of France.


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