WTA Finals: Karolina Pliskova survives Garbine Muguruza in three-set thriller

On Day 1 of the 2021 Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara, the Czech star overcame a set deficit to win the match in a dramatic fashion.

Karolina Pliskova in a file photo; Credit: Twitter

No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova had to dig deep to edge past No.6 seed Garbine Muguruza, defeating the Spaniard 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 in their tournament opener at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. On the back of a 1-0 record, Pliskova joins Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit to lead the Teotihuacan group after Day 1. Pliskova has notably enjoyed a commanding head-to-head record over the Spaniard. She won eight of their 10 prior meetings. Pliskova, who is the most experienced WTA Finals player in the 2021 field, has advanced out of the group stage in all but her first appearance in 2016. This time though she was involved in a grueling battle on Day 1.

Muguruza took control of first set

Starting on the front foot, Pliskova got an early break to lead 2-0 in the first set. However, a shaky service game that included two double faults handed the advantage back immediately. From there on, Muguruza took control of the first set to take a 1-0 lead in the match. Struggling to find her rhythm, Pliskova hit 18 unforced errors to just five winners. 

“I actually think I started the match quite OK, not like feeling amazing,” Pliskova said after the match. “But with 2-0, losing two of my service games in a row, I think that’s a huge mistake. One can happen, but two I think is too much. She just made sure I don’t really get another chance to break her. Still, it was 4-6. It was pretty close the first set. 

Undeterred by the disappointment, Pliskova yet again amassed a 2-0 lead in the second set. This time though, the Czech player did not let the advantage slip, as her serve was unplayable. Pliskova served 89% of her first serves in and lost just two points on serve for the set. The one-sided set meant both the players were on level terms going into the decider.

“I just went for it a bit more,” Pliskova said. “I thought I was a bit too passive in the first set and still making mistakes. I said, ‘OK, just go for it a bit more. If I’m still making mistakes, at least I will have some winners.’ Especially the second serve, I wanted to put pressure on it. It paid off. I think I really played good that second set.”

On the other hand, Muguruza said, “I felt like in the second set, I didn’t serve as good as the first set. At the beginning, I got that break. I think she started to play, to do things, to serve especially.”

“I think she started to serve well beginning of the second set. That’s her biggest weapon. That made the match a little bit tighter. The third set I managed to come back a little bit better. That was the real battle, the third set.”

Pliskova survives thrilling third set

The third set was a closely-fought affair, with not much to separate the players. When Muguruza was serving at 4-5, a Pliskova return winner at 30-all earned the Czech the first of two match points. Muguruza survived them both and held the serve for 5-5. 

In the tiebreak, Muguruza stayed on the front foot, as Pliskova struggled to win points on her own serve. But serving at 5-4, Muguruza could not convert behind her serve and Pliskova earned a third match point, but the Spaniard survived again. But immediately after, Muguruza gave Pliskova her fourth match point. This time though the Czech star made no mistake in converting it to secure the win after 2 hours and 26 minutes.

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