Pliskova destroys Halep's No. 1 hopes

Karolina Pliskova hitting a return to Simona Halep as she defeated the Romanian in their Miami Open semi-final on Thursday. The Czech reached her first Miami final where she will face Australian Ashleigh Barty, who tamed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-
Karolina Pliskova hitting a return to Simona Halep as she defeated the Romanian in their Miami Open semi-final on Thursday. The Czech reached her first Miami final where she will face Australian Ashleigh Barty, who tamed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 6-3 in the earlier semi-final.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Czech rallies to win nine straight games in rain-hit match and will meet Barty in the final

MIAMI • Karolina Pliskova said before her Miami Open semi-final triumph over Simona Halep that "there is always a chance" she could clinch the victory, and she will hope to keep up her never-say-die spirit in today's final against Ashleigh Barty.

The Czech battled back from behind on Thursday and claimed nine games in a row en route to a 7-5, 6-1 victory over the Romanian.

The semi-final clash was delayed twice by rain, but the 27-year-old Pliskova was unfazed by the conditions as she ended Halep's chance to overtake Naomi Osaka as world No. 1.

"I think (Halep) could maybe do a little bit better," said Pliskova.

"Maybe she was of course frustrated about the first set where it didn't really go her way. I played some good shots, and it turned after the break. But, yeah, that's how it is, and I'm happy with my level."

It is Pliskova's first Miami final and she will play Barty, after the 22-year-old Australian overcame Estonia's Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3 in the earlier semi-final.

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  • Winners Karolina Pliskova hit, nine more than her opponent Simona Halep.

"She has a good serve, so she can move pretty well on the court, so she understands the game well, I think," added Pliskova when asked about facing Barty.

"So it's going to be not only about me this time. I need to accept when she's playing well, and I know I can beat her."

Halep needed to make the final to regain the top ranking that she lost to Australian Open champion Osaka. The world No. 3 made a good start by topping a rally with a backhand winner to earn the first break at 3-2.

However, after Pliskova responded with an immediate break to level the scores, the fifth seed surrendered a break point before the rain poured to delay the match for an hour.

When the match resumed, Pliskova double-faulted to hand Halep a 5-3 lead after a strong serve hold from the French Open champion.

But Halep could not consolidate and released three straight errors serving for the set at 5-4 to let Pliskova back into the match.

Three more Halep errors at 6-5 opened up set point for Pliskova and the world No. 7 outlasted her opponent in a rally to win the first set.

In the second set, Halep capitulated and lost five games in a row before rain interrupted play again.

Pliskova won another lengthy exchange on her return to seal her third win over Halep in 73 minutes.

Earlier, Barty was also forced to wait out lengthy rain delays before finally securing her win with an ace on her second match point, 61/2 hours after the scheduled start.

"I have been here for 12 hours today, but really happy with the way I was able to come out after the rain delays and kind of get on the front foot pretty early," she said.

"I did the best with what I had and was able to get out of some tight service games at crucial times and get a bit of a roll on."

In the men's draw, Roger Federer will make 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov's dream come true after the Swiss booked a semi-final tie against the Canadian starlet yesterday (this morning, Singapore time) with a ruthless 6-0, 6-4 destruction of Kevin Anderson.

Shapovalov, who beat fellow young gun Frances Tiafoe 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-2, grew up idolising the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

This will be their first meeting and one that the Canadian, who will break into the top 20 when the rankings are released next week, cannot wait for.

DPA, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2019, with the headline 'Pliskova destroys Halep's No. 1 hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe