Pliskova and Cibulkova to Contest WTA Eastbourne Final
Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Karolina Pliskova and Dominika Cibulkova will contest the Aegon International after the two won their quarter-finals and semi-finals on Friday in Eastbourne.
Pliskova made short work of Elena Vesnina, before ending the challenge of British number one Johanna Konta in three sets in the last four. Cibulkova overturned a deficit against Agniezska Radwanska in the last eight, before seeing off Monica Puig easily in the semi-finals later in the afternoon.
Konta had bettered her run to the quarter-finals here last year, overcoming Ekaterina Makarova – who defeated her in 2015 – to set up the semi-final with Pliskova. Initially, it appeared as if the Briton would make the final of her home tournament as she edged the first set 7-6, taking the breaker 7-5.
However, Pliskova asserted herself as the match wore on, breaking half way through the second set on her way to winning it 6-3. Konta, who had prevailed 6-0 in a deciding set earlier in the week against Petra Kvitova, fell two breaks behind early and, despite a brief revival, she was unable to overturn the deficit.
“So far, I’m happy with the tennis the way I’m playing here this week. This was the toughest match this week but happy to be through,” said Pliskova.
There was a brief moment of drama for Konta when she fell during the second set, with fears rising when she began crying and hobbling. But any fears were quickly quelled, and the world number 17 was able to complete the match with no further issues.
Looking to allay concerns afterwards, Konta said: “I was only limping straight after just because the way the fall happened. I couldn’t actually get up because my body spasmed up a bit. And then it’s fine.”
Earlier in the day, Pliskova stormed past Elena Vesnina, picking up a brisk 6-1 6-3 triumph in just over an hour. The Czech cruised to a 4-0 lead as she won the first set in just 24 minutes, and she faced few dramas in the second, dropping serve just once throughout the match.
Rain on Thursday saw Cibulkova’s match with Radwanska suspended with the former a set behind, but the determined Slovak battled hard, bringing the second set back on serve before prevailing in the tie-break with typically punchy play.
A cagey deciding set remained on serve until the seventh game, when the 12th seed broke through the Pole’s serve, before holding and breaking again to wrap up the contest 4-6 7-6 6-3.
Few troubles greeted Cibulkova in her semi-final bout against qualifier Puig, who enjoyed a fruitful week in the pre-Wimbledon event. After closing out the opening set 6-2, Cibulkova raced through the second 6-1 in a dominant performance that took just an hour and 15 minutes.
Puig was broken four times while Cibulkova saved the only break point she faced. However, the productive week will see the Puerto Rican rise to a new career-high ranking of 36.
Cibulkova and Pliskova have played only once previously, on a hardcourt in Kuala Lumpur two years ago. On that occasion it was the former who won, edging a three-set battle.
However, not much can be gleaned from match in regard to the upcoming one. For Pliskova to win, she will be reliant on her serve winning plenty of free points – against Konta, she dealt a total of 12 aces.
For Cibulkova, the grass courts allow her compact style to thrive when in the zone. When firing, her forceful groundstrokes are potent, so expect the Slovak to try and control play from the baseline. Her ability to get Pliskova’s serves back in court and challenging her to play the extra ball may determine whether she is holding up the winner’s trophy.
Cibulkova is in search of her second title of the year, having won in Katowice two months ago.
Pliskova, however, is in a rich vein of form having triumphed in Nottingham earlier in the month. On that evidence and her showings this week in Eastbourne, she will be very difficult to stop in Saturday’s showpiece.
In the doubles event, the pairing of Darija Jurak and Anastasia Rodionova will take on the Chinese Taipei duo of Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan in the final.
Jurak/Rodionova have breezed through the tournament so far – sealing an impressive win versus Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza in the quarter-finals – and secured a rapid 6-2 6-1 victory over Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke in the semis.
The second-seeded Chans pinched a 6-1 1-6 10-6 win over Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova in their last four match.