Karolina Pliskova overcame a set deficit to put away a pesky Victoria Azarenka 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2 to her 500th career match and reach the Rome semifinals.
Pliskova led early and then served for the opener at 5-3. But Azarenka, who had won four of seven entering against the Czech, came back to force the breaker, and she took the first when Pliskova double faulted.
But Pliskova would only dropped four of the next 16 games thereafter.
“I think the last couple years I know I’m playing a lot of 3-setters,” said Pliskova. “I’m not panicking if I lose first set or even the second. I’m just there. I keep fighting. I feel quite confident coming to the third set, because I know I won quite a lot in last couple of years.”
Fitness-wise, I feel great,” she added. “There is no problem that I will lose energy in the third set. Anyway, I’m going to try the next one in two.”
Pliskova will be a big favorite against Maria Sakkari who also came from a set down to beat fellow qualifier Kristina Mladenovic in similar fashion 5-7, 6-3, 6-0
“I just sat down after I won the second set, I was like, ‘Now it’s your time, now it’s time to do what you have to do,'” Sakkari said. “Just went after my shots. Trusted myself. I think I did pretty well.”
In their only prior meeting, Sakkari upset Pliskova on these very courts a year ago in Rome.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a very, very tough match,” Sakkari said of the semifinal. “[Pliskova is] going to be up for it. Of course, we both want to be in the final. I’m just looking forward for the match.”
And of course she joins countryman Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals.
In the early semifinal, Kiki Bertens will meet the resurgent Johanna Konta. Bertens advanced without hitting a ball as world No. 1 Naomi Osaka withdrew with a right hand injury.
After wins yesterday over Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams, Konta kept it going edging young Czech Marketa Vondousova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. And won it on her 28th birthday!
None of the four remaining players have ever reached the Rome final before. Only Bertens in 2017 has even been in the semifinals before.
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