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Karolina Pliskova vs Alison Riske Aegon Open Nottingham tennis live: Top seed faces surprise finalist in WTA grand finale

Abigail Johnson in News 12 Jun 2016
  • Top seed Karolina Pliskova faces surprise finalist Alison Riske in the Aegon Open Nottingham final at 2pm BST
  • Pliskova leads their head-to-head 2-1, but they have not faced off since 2013 and never on grass
Karolina Pliskova during her victory over Monica Puig. (Photo by Jon Buckle/Getty Images for LTA)

Top seed Karolina Pliskova is looking in devastating form at the Aegon Open Nottingham. She takes on Alison Riske for the trophy at 2pm BST.

Top seed  Karolina Pliskova was in bright spirits mid-week at the Aegon Open Nottingham. “My coach is not here, so I took it a little bit like holiday!” she commented with a laugh, as the sun bore down outside.

To some, it may have sounded as if Karolina Pliskova – a late wildcard into the event – did not come to Nottingham straining at the bit to win the Aegon Open. Nevertheless, this relaxed approach to her tennis has been doing wonders for the Czech. The reward so far is safe passage into a grass-court final for the second straight season. The current world no. 17 made the final round in Birmingham last year.

Thanks to some dazzling displays, the top 20 star now has another match to contest before she heads back to the Aegon Classic to defend last year's points. But while she now looks in scintillating form, Pliskova has not quite avoided the upset scare. Indeed, it appeared at one stage that the world no. 17 might crash out in round one! Anastasija Sevastova came from 5-1 down in the first set tiebreak to take a one set to love lead over her in round one, before Pliskova stormed back for a 6-7(5) 6-0 6-2 win. While her 6-1 6-3 victory over Anna Tatishvili blitzed by in under an hour, rain delayed what turned out to be an epic clash for the Czech on Saturday.

All singles players were in the same boat on the penultimate day of Aegon Open action: Needing to win two matches in one day if they were to reach the final round. Pliskova was in a highly-anticipated match-up with returning former prodigy Ashleigh Barty, who had won a three-set thriller with the right-handed Pliskova twin here four years ago. Of course, the world no. 17's profile has risen substantially since then – as well as her standard of tennis – but Barty has been showing off true tennis skill in Nottingham this week, from tactics and power to her devastating sliced backhand. Quality hit-and-slice rallies of precision and length were just some of what the fans were treated to during a roughly two hour clash which the top seed won 7-6(2) 7-6(7). The 20-year-old Barty, faced with a women playing just about her best tennis, had set points in both sets.

“I had my chances,” an upbeat Barty reflected post match. “It's disappointing not to convert, but Karolina played the big points pretty well. I didn't do a lot wrong really. Obviously her serve's one of her biggest weapons, and if we take that out of the equation (this result) may swing the other way, but that's part and parcel of tennis and everyone has their own weapons.”

Pliskova's serve would not be taken out of the equation for the rest of the day, and semifinal victim Monica Puig can be forgiven for not being half as upbeat as Barty after her own loss. The no. 4 seed was yet to drop a set this week in making the last four, and had impressed with fiery power, smart tactics and impeccable focus. Nevertheless – having withdrawn from doubles with injury – Pliskova invested every atom of her being into her clash with Puig, and played a near-perfect match. Her first serves landed devastatingly, beginning to frustrate her opponent as the match wore on. While Puig attacked second serves, more often than not she could not out-hit Pliskova from the baseline. And the times she tried to make her opponent run with drop shots and mixed lengths, the Czech came up with something magical. It was the first time this week the Puerto Rican had lost her composure, and it was mainly because of Karolina Pliskova's flat power, needle-sharp slice and zoning game. Her 6-2 6-2 victory came in just 54 minutes, and fired a warning shot at Alison Riske.

America's unseeded Riske is a most unexpected semifinalist in Nottingham - although back in 2013 she qualified for Birmingham and went all the way to the Premier event's semifinals, proving that she has a game fore the grass-courts. Twice a presence in the third round of Wimbledon, Riske had not really been relevant on the WTA circuit since Shenzhen in January, where she made an impressive run to the final before tailing off.

All the same, the lawns have apparently reignited something in the 25-year-old. A win at the ITF's Eastbourne last week – defeating fellow Aegon Open competitors Ash Barty and Tara Moore to seal ultimate triumph – set her up for Nottingham, and now Riske is yet to lose a match on grass so far this season. In fact, the non-seeder has stormed to triumph in every match she has contested in Nottingham: 6-2 6-1 over no. 7 seed Mona Barthel, 6-2 6-4 versus Su-Wei Hsieh, 6-3 6-3 over Anett Kontaveit and 6-1 7-5 over Zheng Saisai. In her latest clash, the world no. 89 saved five of the eight break points she faced, converting on six of her own 14 opportunities against Zheng.

Karolina Pliskova and Alison Riske have faced off three times before, with Pliskova leading the head-to-head 2-1. Only one of these meetings, however, has come on the WTA tour. While Riske squeezed out a three-set win in 2012, Pliskova has defeated her twice in straight sets – most recently 6-3 7-5 in Charleston in 2013.

Who will win their first meeting on grass-courts? A trophy is on the line as Karolina Pliskova faces Alison Riske in Nottingham at 2pm BST.

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Karolina Pliskova vs Alison Riske Aegon Open Nottingham tennis live: Top seed faces surprise finalist in WTA grand finale

World no. 17 Karolina Pliskova is in scintillating form in Nottingham. Can Alison Riske level their H2H?: Pliskova vs Riske Aegon Open tennis live stream

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