Woz­ni­acki ousts top-seed Pliskova

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Caro­line Woz­ni­acki made some changes this week to try to change her for­tune in a city that has not been kind on the tennis front. Per­sonal driver? Not needed this time around. Same ho­tel as be­fore? Switch that book­ing. Woz­ni­acki is not only win­ning in Toronto for the first time in her ca­reer, she’s do­ing it against the world’s best.

The 27-year-old from Den­mark out­lasted top-ranked Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in a rain-de­layed quar­ter­fi­nal on Fri­day at the Rogers Cup. The match ended just over five hours af­ter the play­ers took to the court in the early af­ter­noon for the pregame warmup. The start was de­layed for more than two hours and three more weather in­ter­rup­tions followed in the first set alone.

Ac­tual on-court match time was 2 hours, 56 min­utes, but it felt much longer. “I just kept fight­ing and just kept do­ing my thing,” Woz­ni­acki said. In the de­cid­ing set, Woz­ni­acki broke at love to pull even at 4-4. She then held serve and followed with an­other break to lock up a spot in the fi­nal four.

Next up will be a Satur­day show­down with Amer­i­can Sloane Stephens, who topped Lu­cie Sa­farova of the Czech Repub­lic 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 be­fore the rain re­turned in the evening. Two other quar­ter­fi­nals were post­poned until Satur­day. Fifth-seeded Elina Svi­tolina of Ukraine will take on fourth-seeded Spa­niard Gar­bine Mugu­ruza, while de­fend­ing champ and sec­ond seed Si­mona Halep of Ro­ma­nia is to play Caro­line Gar­cia of France.

Pliskova, a 6-foot-1 25-year-old from the Czech Repub­lic, was play­ing her first tour­na­ment as the world No. 1. “She just put ev­ery­thing back,” Pliskova said. “Even my serves, even some of the ground­strokes. So it was tough for me to close it and I think it’s tough to play some­one like (that).”

Woz­ni­acki had lost her open­ing matches in all four pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances on the WTA Tour’s Toronto stop. Montreal hosts the women’s Rogers Cup in al­ter­nate years and she has fared much bet­ter there, win­ning in 2010 and reach­ing the semi­fi­nals in 2012.

Af­ter drop­ping the first three games of the open­ing set Fri­day, Woz­ni­acki fought back by beat­ing Pliskova at her own game. She matched her pow­er­ful ground­strokes and started go­ing for more win­ners to take the mo­men­tum. On her heels a bit more, Pliskova’s un­forced er­rors started to rise. She smashed her racket into the court when an­other mis­cue gave Woz­ni­acki a 6-5 edge.

Woz­ni­acki used an ace to win her sixth straight game and the first set. “I just tried to stay steady,” she said. “(I) tried to take the ball on the rise and try to stay ag­gres­sive when I could and keep my serves ag­gres­sive too.” Both play­ers held serve through the sec­ond set with Pliskova pulling even in the match by tak­ing the last four points of the tiebreaker.

Pliskova used a strong back­hand cross­court to earn the first break of the third set. She pulled ahead 3-2 as Woz­ni­acki was forced wide and net­ted her re­turn. How­ever, Woz­ni­acki re­fused to buckle and breaks in two of the last three games gave her a semi­fi­nal berth and a 5-2 ca­reer head-to-head mark against Pliskova. “I think I was maybe a lit­tle bit less tired to­ward the end,” Woz­ni­acki said. “I just kept hang­ing in there and I thought we both played a re­ally good match.”

Woz­ni­acki spent 67 weeks as the world’s top-ranked player in 2010 and 2011, but her rank­ing has slipped over the past two sea­sons due to in­juries. She dropped to No. 74 last Au­gust but has re­turned to form of late. Woz­ni­acki has reached five fi­nals this sea­son and cur­rently holds the No. 6 po­si­tion.

Since she re­turned from her in­jury lay­off, Woz­ni­acki said she’s been en­joy­ing her time on court a lit­tle more and has toned down her work­out reg­i­men. “I’m not old but I’ve been on tour for many years,” she said. “(I’m) get­ting older and the body can’t han­dle the same as it used to when I was 18, 19. So I just had to re­ally think of that. “I had some time to just be home and en­joy spend­ing some time with friends and fam­ily and then came back and was recharged.”—AP

TORONTO: Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, of Den­mark, hits a fore­hand to Karolina Pliskova, of the Czech Repub­lic, dur­ing a Rogers Cup quar­ter­fi­nal tennis match in Toronto. — AP

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