Serena Williams’ semifinal loss to Karolina Pliskova confirmed the statement of truth that in one’s strengths lie the weaknesses. They are two sides of the same coin. Her over-powering serve missed the target every time she needed it. At the end, the unseeded Czech earned victory in two straight sets, 6/2; 7/5 to book her place in the finals with Angelique Kerber who prevailed in the other battle against Carolina Wozniacki.
Serena’s performance was reminiscent of the Australian Open finals in January, when potential aces barely missed the lines.
Serena opened serving with her first ace wide to Karolina’s forehand side. She held without dropping a point. The lanky Czech registered her booming serve, taking the first point with an ace and service winner to level. Serena’s first attempt in the third game was the first second serve by either player. She took the point but at 30-40, she hit a backhand shot out for break of serve. It commenced the tragedy of aces just missing the lines.
On the other hand, Pliskova was hitting the target on serve, with two aces and drawing a service return error to take the fourth game for a 3-1 lead. Attempting to close the gap, Williams missed the line three times on serve yet survived with a service winner and an ace to hold serve. Karolina hammered her 13th successful first serve, an ace, but double-faulted at game point.
An opportunity was presented to Serena on a second serve at deuce and she attempted a winner but missed the line. Karolina held the game to lead 4-2. In the first point of the seventh game, a service missed the line yet again followed by a double fault. On her ninth unforced error in the set, Serena faced break point at 0-40 and conceded it with a missed forehand.
Serving for the set, Pliskova got up 30-0, then dropped one point but a net cord in her favour led to set point at 40-15 and she claimed the game and set with a hard serve that Serena attempted to return with one handed backhand. The set was in her kitty in 26 minutes.
Serena opened proceedings in the second set. Leading 15-0 she missed an easy sitter midcourt and a service return winner put her 15-30. Facing break point at 30-40, Serena’s serve missed the mark slightly but sq££zed a deuce and held serve, with a loud yell of her trademark “Come on!!!”
Pliskova continued the run of powerful serving and held to level. In the third game Serena missed two successive ace deliveries and also at game point yet held the game.
The need to deliver a second serve would always take its toll in the fatigue from additional effort.
At 15-30 in the fourth game, Serena had an opportunity to go up two break points but she missed an easy volley. Her opponent jumped up 40-30 but after a “let” call on second serve, made a double-fault for deuce. She dismissed the disappointment by hammering a service winner and an ace to level. Serena took the first point of the fifth game but got leveled 30-all and a return to her feet on baseline gave Karolina break point that she took despite Serena controlling a long rally.
Serena took the first three points on her opponent’s serve to reach her first break opportunity and converted it to level 3 games apiece.
Serving to shoot ahead, Serena double-faulted twice but struggled to win the game with an ace down the middle. A missed easy forehand led to deuce, in which she lost the first advantage point. A “let” call denied a winning ace but she got the advantage and took the game on Pliskova’s missed return of serve. Pliskova had no difficulty in holding serve to level four-all; despite throwing in her sixth double fault. Although she missed another ace serve, Serena did not drop a point in clinching the ninth game, delivering an ace in the process.
Pliskova held serve yet again dropping only one point. Serena had better success with her serve and took the eleventh game to lead six games to five. Although she lost the first point on a clean service return winner by Serena, Pliskova led 30-15; 40-30 and delivered an ace to take set into tie break.
Serving first, Serena lost the first point. Pliskova held her two points. Serena held her two and got even when her opponent double-faulted to fall behind 3-4. Strangely, Serena also handed a double fault but held to lead 5-4. The reliable serve gave the Czech two points and match point. Needing to hold her service points, Serena was delayed by the roaring crowd. Her first delivery (just) missed the line. She hesitated before tossing for the second serve that landed a little past the service line. The match was ended by a weakness of Serena’s strength.
Pliskova became the first Czech player to defeat Serena and the third (after Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters) to dismiss the two Williams sisters in the same grand slam tournament.
The Karolina Pliskova victory over Serena Williams resulted from the failure of a major weapon of the loser. In her loss to Angelique Kerber, however, Caroline Wozniacki broke a major axiom of the game: get the serve back and let the rally begin. Facing an opponent, who would not concede points, it was suicidal to lose points on the return of a Kerber serve that is not overpowering and averages below 100mph. On that account, unforced errors resulted in her straight set loss 6/4; 6/3.
The Danish lady lost the first six points of the match and was broken twice before she registered on the score board in the fifth game. She took the sixth game on an uncharacteristic double fault by the feisty German. When she held to reduce the tally, there was hope of resurgence. Kerber denied the come-back by promptly holding serve at love to lead 5-3. Wozniacki staved off a set point at 30-40 and survived lost advantage point before holding serve.
Kerber served out the set that ended with a service return error by Wozniacki.
The second set presented no glimmer of hope as Wozniacki fell behind 1-4 on her 23rd unforced error at game point. The German lady held to lad 5-1 before Wozniacki served hard to win the seventh game. Serving for the match, Kerber lost three straight points and double faulted to hand the break to her opponent. Serving to stay in the match, Wozniacki took the first point on a combination drop shot and lob. She got game point at 40-30 but Kerber forced a deuce and took the advantage point, which she clinched when her opponent misjudged a ball that landed on her baseline.
With Serena’s loss, Kerber will be listed as the number one female player in the world even before she steps on court to play against Pliskova in the finals on Monday. It was the same Pliskova that denied Kerber an earlier ascendancy by defeating her in the Cincinnati finals in August.