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Osaka vs Pliskova Australian Open Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Osaka and Pliskova battle for Australian Open final spot

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 23 Jan 2019
  • Naomi Osaka vs Karolina Pliskova is live from Melbourne on Thursday, 24 January from 3:30pm local time/ 4:30am GMT
  • Pliskova leads 2-1 on head-to-head, but one of her victories was via retirement
Naomi Osaka. (Photo by GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova go head-to-head on Thursday as they battle for a spot in the Australian Open final.

Osaka and Pliskova came through contrasting semi-finals, with the Japanese easing past Elina Svitolina in straight sets, while Pliskova mounted a miraculous recovery against Serena Williams, fighting back from 1-5 down in the final set, and saving four match points to advance to her first Australian Open semi-final.

Osaka is on a 12-match winning streak at Grand Slams, dating back to her US Open success last season, and she remains on course to become the first woman since Jennifer Capriati at Roland Garros in 2001 to win her first two Grand Slams back-to-back. 

After battling back from behind to defeat Su-Wei Hsieh and Anastasija Sevastova in the previous two rounds, Osaka was in command for the entirety of her quarter final against Svitolina, moving past the ailing Ukrainian 6-4 6-1 after an hour and 10 minutes. The world number four hit eight aces and no double faults, while she struck 35 winners and offered up just 25 unforced errors. The opening set was a set of two halves, with the first five games going with serve, and the latter five against serve, but Osaka was always ahead in the score and she closed it out on her fourth set point. Osaka ran away with the match in the second set, opening up a 5-0 lead as Svitolina struggled with neck and shoulder injuries, and she closed out the match with an overhead a couple of games later, ending a two-match losing streak against Svitolina and evening their series at 3-3.

“It feels really good. This is something that I have been working on a lot, which is, like, trying to get deeper in tournaments more consistently", Osaka said. "I think I have been able to do that”. “I just try to keep looking forward. So I'm not really satisfied – like, I am happy that I'm here, but at the same time, I want to keep going. There is more matches to win”.

It was a welcome straightforward victory for the Japanese after a couple of difficult matches. Against Su-Wei Hsieh in the third round, she seemed to be heading out of the tournament when she trailed 5-7 1-4, but she launched a brilliant recovery to win 11 of the next 12 games. She found herself a set down against tricky Sevastova in the fourth round, but she once again fought back to win in an impressive show of resilience and character. Osaka is maturing very quickly, adapting brilliantly to life as a member of the WTA’s elite group, which she effectively joined in 2018 after winning her first Grand Slam title at the US Open. She had earlier served up a warning with a swashbuckling run to her first Premier Mandatory title at Indian Wells. 

Osaka is one of three women that can end the Australian Open as world No. 1, the others being Pliskova and Petra Kvitova. If she at least matches Kvitova’s performance in Melbourne, she will be No. 1 in the world.

Like Osaka, Pliskova is also in the running for the top ranking- but she needs to win the Australian Open to regain the top ranking which she last held between July and August 2017.

Karolina Pliskova. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Pliskova pulled off one of the most stunning comebacks in recent Grand Slam history on Wednesday when she staged a spectacular revival against Serena Williams to book her place in a first Australian Open semi-final. The Czech looked dead and buried with Serena serving at 5-1 40-30 in the final set, but events then took a dramatic turn. Serena was called for a foot fault on match point, and after getting the second serve in, she rolled her left ankle mid-rally as Pliskova went on to win the point. Serena didn’t win any more points on serve after that incident as she appeared to struggle with the injury, but she did have three more match points on Pliskova’s serve, which the Czech saved with some positive, aggressive tennis. She won six games in a row from 5-1 down to pull off a 6-4 4-6 7-5 victory.

“That's how it is in tennis, the Czech reflected. “You need luck, of course, because this is I think not happening often, maybe once in life. But I went for it. I just said, Like whatever. Maybe this can be over, but let's just try this game. I was with the wind, which kind of helped me little bit. I just went for my shots”.

The Czech had opened her tournament with a straight sets victory over Karolina Muchova in the first round, but she was pushed to three sets in successive matches against Madison Brengle and Camila Giorgi, before turning out her most polished performance in the fourth round against Garbine Muguruza, winning 6-3 6-1.

Pliskova is into her first Grand Slam semi-final since Roland Garros 2017, and will attempt to reach her second major final, having first got that far at the 2016 US Open, when she lost to Angelique Kerber. 

Having reached No. 1 in the world in the middle of 2017, but she somewhat plateaued last year, as Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber lead the way, while Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka made their moves. It would be unfair to say she had a poor 2018- she didn’t- she just could not match the efforts of the other players around her, particularly at the majors, where she made two quarter finals. (Kerber, Halep, Wozniacki and Osaka were Grand Slam champions, while Stephens was a major finalist). 

She’s back in the mix again after a perfect start to 2018, and has given herself a fantastic shot at not only a maiden Grand Slam title, but also a chance to reclaim the No. 1 ranking.

“I feel better this year. I don't know why, Pliskova said. "I had the feeling that 2019 can be good year. So far it started all good. Hopefully it can continue”. 
“Already last year I was feeling better on Grand Slams. This time I just feel somehow different and more confident. I'm not doubting myself if I win or if I lose, whatever. So I just feel good”.

This semi-final can absolutely go either way as both players possess weapons that can hurt the other, starting with the serve, hence, execution will be very important, especially on big points. I reckon Osaka has the better forehand, but Pliskova is more balanced off both wings, and generally plays with greater control. 

“I've played few hitters here in the last matches, obviously Giorgi, now Serena”, Pliskova continued. “I think I'm well prepared for Naomi".
"I just try to do anything possible just to maybe put one extra ball back but on the other hand to still be aggressive. Taking my chances, I'm sure I'm going to get some. Of course, maybe she, too. But I think anything is possible. She is in the first semifinal here, too”.

The head-to-head reads 2-1 in Pliskova’s favour, with the Czech winning their first encounter via retirement in Toronto in 2017, while they split their two matches in 2018, Osaka winning in straight sets at Indian Wells, and Pliskova responding, also in straight sets, in the Tokyo final. Given the form both ladies have shown so far this season, and the fight they have exhibited to get this far, I don’t think anyone will run away with this, but instead should be a tight tense affair that could drag on late into a deciding set. 

Naomi Osaka vs Karolina Pliskova is live from Melbourne on Thursday, 24 January from 3:30pm local time/ 4:30am GMT

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Osaka vs Pliskova Australian Open Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Osaka and Pliskova battle for Australian Open final spot

Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova go head-to-head on Thursday as they battle for a spot in the Australian Open final. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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