Pliskova storms into final
February 17 2017 11:25 PM
Karolina Pliskova

Karolina Pliskova powered her way into the Qatar Total Open final yesterday, the No. 2 seed beating third seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in the semi-finals.
Pliskova had never defeated Cibulkova in their three previous meetings but the Czech was on fire at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on a damp night. The World No. 3 served an astonishing 21 aces and showed tremendous mental strength and fitness in overcoming the Slovak.
While Cibulkova had finished her quarter-final match on Thursday, Pliskova on the other hand was forced to play the quarters and semis on the same day, due to repeated rain interventions.
The momentum was clearly with Pliskova as she overcame many a difficult moments, especially in the first set, to seal her place in today’s final.
The 24-year-old will either face Olympic champion Monica Puig or former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who were playing the second semi-final late last night, a few hours after winning their quarter-final matches.
After rain battered the courts for most of yesterday, the tournament organisers were relieved to see the clouds clear up at night as the players were put on double duty. Today’s forecast is for clear skies, which means the rain-hit tournament will most likely get over on schedule, which didn’t seem the case even till yesterday evening.
Earlier, Pliskova had outplayed Shuai Zhang 6-2, 6-0 to set-up a semi-final date with Cibulkova. Zhang, who had shocked fifth seed Garbine Muguruza in the second round, had no answers to Pliskova’s power game.
Zhang was broken by Pliskova twice as the Czech took a 5-2 lead, before another rain delay meant that the players again had to scamper for cover.
On resumption, Pliskova wrapped up the first set, and broke Zhang again in the opening game of the second set. But heavy downpour ensued that the players had a lengthy break of almost five hours.
When they finally returned to the courts, Pliskova was in a hurry to close out the match. Two further breaks put her firmly in charge and she served out to love to put Zhang out of her misery.
Earlier, Puig entered the semis, the Puerto Rican’s first since her historic gold in Rio last August.
 The 23-year-old has not had a great start to the year, as she bowed out in the first round in Sydney and Brisbane. She did marginally better at the Australian Open, where she reached the second round. But the 47th-ranked Puig’s loss in Melbourne came to 181st-ranked Mona Barthel.
Here in Doha, Puig has meant business from day one. After her second-round victory over Yulia Putintseva, where the Kazakh girl had to retire midway, Puig was back in business. Her hard work seems to be bearing fruit. Yesterday, she completed a fighting win over promising Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
The quarter-final was carried over from Thursday, when the match was locked at a set apiece before the players were finally called off court due to rain.
On resumption in the afternoon, Puig wasn’t in the mood to hand around for a long time. She was off the blocks quickly, converting her fourth break point to move 3-2 ahead.
Puig saved two further break points in her next service game to keep her hopes alive before breaking back to level the match at 4-4. A wayward stroke from Kasatkina, serving at 4-5, handed the 23-year-old a victory.
“At our match in Indian Wells I also had match points and lost the match but against her it’s always going to be tough,” Puig said. “We’re both up and coming and she’s such a great player so it was a good match and I loved the fight out there.”
Meanwhile, Wozniacki, ranked 18th, beat American qualifier Lauren Davis 7-5, 6-1 in the last quarter-final.

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