Karolina Pliskova wins the ‘head’ game against Serena
The Czech completes an epic comeback win to reach her first Australian Open semifinals
Melbourne — Karolina Pliskova said that saving four match points against Serena Williams had got into the American’s “head” as the Czech completed an epic comeback win to reach her first Australian Open semifinals on Wednesday.
Seventh seed Pliskova saved a match point at 5-1 down in the deciding set and another three at 5-4 before Williams crumbled 4-6 6-4 7-5 in front of a stunned crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
The nerve-jangling win booked the tall Czech her first Melbourne semifinals and she will meet US Open champion Naomi Osaka for a place in the title-decider.
Pliskova described the win as the comeback of her life but one that would not have happened without some assistance from her 23-times Grand Slam champion opponent.
“She was already match point up in that 5-1 game. Lots of things happened … in those games. I just felt a chance,” she told reporters.
“I think she maybe got little bit … for sure it was in her head.
Lots of things happen. I saw a chance and I just took it.”
The big-serving Czech was brilliant in the face of defeat, capturing the decisive break in the 11th game before sealing the win on a third match point when Williams slapped a forehand into the net, her 37th unforced error of the match.
Having avenged her loss to Williams at the US Open quarterfinals, Pliskova now has an enviable Grand Slam record against the American great, having beaten her in two of their three matches at the Majors.
Pliskova toppled Williams at the 2016 US Open semifinals when the American was top seed but felt the 37-year-old Williams she faced at Melbourne Park had played better.
“I think honestly she played much better than when she was playing when I beat her in New York. The match was so much better. There were more mistakes [in New York]. Maybe she was nervous, it was in the States,” she said.
Pliskova, who reached world No 1 in 2017 but has yet to claim a Grand Slam title, has a chance to regain the top ranking if she wins the tournament.
Her next opponent, Osaka, and compatriot Petra Kvitova, who faces Danielle Collins in the next match, are also in the running to be crowned No 1.
“I don’t want to say it means zero, but it doesn’t mean the same. Right now in this situation [it] would not mean the same as winning the Grand Slam,” she said.
“I’m not going to chase this, so for me nothing is changing.”
Pliskova has won two out of three of her matches against Osaka. She fell to the hardh it t i ng 21-year-old in the quarterfinals at Indian Wells in 2018 before beating her in front of home fans in their last meeting at the Japan Open title-decider.
“Yeah, I’ve played a few hitters here in the last matches, obviously Camila Giorgi, now Serena. I think I’m well prepared for Naomi,” Pliskova said.
● Novak Djokovic reached th llast four for the seventh time in his career after his quarterfinal opponent, Japanese dynamo Kei Nishikori, retired with an injury while trailing 6-1 4-1.
Djokovic, who has gone on to win the title each time he has reached the semifinals in the past, faces Frenchman Lucas Pouille on Friday.
Second seed Rafa Nadal and Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas meet in the other men’s semifinal on Thursday.