by Kevin Craig
Karolina Pliskova ended the opportunity of having an all-Williams semifinal at the US Open as she defeated Venus Williams on Monday, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).
“I put everything in there, I’m happy that I won it,” said Pliskova.
The 10th-seeded Pliskova reached her first quarterfinal at a major with the win that saw her battle back from a being down a set and a break in the second set, while she also had to fight off a match point in the third.
In the first, the Czech didn’t have much to offer for the crowd-favorite Williams. The American, currently ranked No. 6 in the world at the age of 36, rolled out to a 3-0 lead in the first set with ease. That lead would expand to 5-1 for Williams, but she would have difficulty closing out the set as Pliskova would break her twice and actually got the set back on serve.
With Pliskova serving at 4-5, though, she quickly fell into a 0-40 hole and was unable to battle out of it as Williams broke on her third chance to close out the set and take a lead.
The second set saw some of that momentum for Pliskova from the end of the first set carry over. Despite going down a break early, the Czech didn’t let it crush her hopes, as she immediately broke in the next game before breaking again two games later, eventually having a 5-3 lead. Serving out the set at 5-4, Pliskova had no troubles levelling the match as she held at 15 to take the match into a decider.
Pliskova, who hit 33 winners in the match, continued to be in charge early on in the third set, pressuring Williams in her first two service games. The pressure paid off as Pliskova broke for a 2-1 lead before fighting off three break points in the next game to go up 3-1. One sloppy game at 4-3, though, would cost Pliskova the lead as Williams broke easily to level up the match.
With Pliskova serving at 4-5, it looked like the opportunity had slipped out of the hands of the 24-year old as Williams had a look at a match point. Pliskova was able to hold her nerve, though, and earn a tough hold for 5-5. That gave the Czech a confidence boost that allowed her to break in the next game and attempt to serve for the match at 6-5.
After quickly going up 40-0, with three match points in hand, it looked like Pliskova had finally sealed the deal. It would never be that easy with Williams, one of the most decorated tennis players of all-time, on the other side of the net. The American was able to save all three of those match points, winning five points in a row to break back and force a final set tiebreak.
“To be honest, it was very difficult after I lost my serve for 6-6. She played a very good game but I was still focused,” said Pliskova.
In the tiebreak, the fight-back from Williams had finally reached its limit. Pliskova was able to race out to a 6-2 lead where the American saved a fourth match point. At 6-3, though, the job was finally completed as the Czech capitalized on her fifth match point to ensure her place in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time in her career.
“So far I’m happy that I got my first quarter-final. I’m going to enjoy this moment and prepare for the next match,” said Pliskova, who will take on either the No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwansa or Ana Konjuh in the next round.