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Pliskova vs Bencic tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Dubai champion Bencic on 11-match winning streak coming into Indian Wells quarterfinal clash

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 13 Mar 2019
  • Karolina Pliskova faces Dubai champion Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open
  • Pliskova vs Bencic is live from Indian Wells on Thursday
Karolina Pliskova (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Belinda Bencic’s red-hot form has taken her to the Indian Wells quarterfinals – now can it take her past fifth seed Karolina Pliskova?

Karolina Pliskova is one match away from making the Indian Wells semifinals for the third time but the fifth seed faces a major challenge from surging Belinda Bencic, who won Dubai in storming style a few weeks ago. 

Karolina Pliskova (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
It’s not too surprising that Karolina Pliskova is one of three top-eight seeds to reach the quarterfinals, along with Angelique Kerber in her half of the draw and Elina Svitolina in the bottom half. The big-serving Czech has an excellent record at the BNP Paribas Open, where she hasn’t failed to win back-to-back matches since 2013 and has made the quarterfinals or better on her last three appearances, making the semifinals in 2016 and 2017. Moreover she’s made a solid start to 2019, following a strong end to 2018 which included a run to the WTA Finals Singapore final by winning her first ten matches of the season, claiming the Brisbane International title and making the semifinals of the Australian Open.

Pliskova was unable to stop Simona Halep from leading Romania to victory over the Czech Republic during Fed Cup and bowed out to Su-Wei Hsieh in the quarterfinals of Dubai after struggling with illness, but she’s been solid at Indian Wells despite some challenges. Qualifier Misaki Doi edged the first set against Pliskova in the first round, but the fifth seed lost only two games in the remaining two; she ended the run of another qualifier, Ysaline Bonaventure, in the third; and survived a purple patch from the formidable Anett Kontaveit in the last 16. 

Kontaveit is a tremendous ballstriker and the Estonian raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set, then broke back when Pliskova served for it to force it to a tie-break, only for a clinical Pliskova to deny her a single point in that tie-break. Kontaveit reeled off winners to take the second set, although Pliskova kept it close and reaped the reward in the third set, winning the last four games of the match for a 7-6(0), 4-6, 6-2 victory in which she struck 13 aces and won 70% of points behind her first serve.

‘I'm happy with how I fought, because I wasn't always playing great points and not everything went my way,’ Pliskova said afterwards. 

‘I got frustrated by some of her good shots and it was so close, so if you lose your focus in those moments, you can lose the match quickly.’

It should be another very close encounter for Pliskova on Thursday as she faces the on-fire Belinda Bencic.

Belinda Bencic (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Starting the year at world no. 55 after a lengthy struggle with various injuries saw her formerly top-10 ranking drop outside the top 300 in 2017, Bencic has made herself the talk of women’s tennis again just as she did when she became the youngest woman to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Martina Hingis at the US Open in 2015 and followed that with a Premier-5 title at Rogers Cup the following August. Already 17-3 in 2019, Bencic’s season started by defending her Hopman Cup title alongside Roger Federer and she went on to make the semifinals of the Hobart International and the third round of the Australian Open. 

But it’s in February that Bencic really got going, following wins over Camila Giorgi and Sara Errani in Fed Cup by storming to the Premier-5 title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, beating four top-10 players in consecutive three-set matches – Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova – to claim the title with one of the great runs of recent memory.
Bencic has brought that momentum to Indian Wells, stretching her winning streak to 11 matches with wins over Budapest champion Alison van Uytvanck, Ekaterina Alexandrova and defending champion and world no. 1 Naomi Osaka, dropping just 15 games in the process.

Bencic was spellbindingly good against Osaka, displaying all her abilities to absorb pace and smother her opponents with it. Osaka did not serve well, but that was partly down to superb returning on Bencic’s part, while Bencic herself out-aced Osaka 4-1 and won 82% of points behind her first serve and 50% behind her second – no small feat against an aggressive returner like Osaka. 

It was an unbelievably confident performance from Bencic, who is clearly feeling great on court at the moment and is enjoying showing just how well she plays when she does, and an ominous showing ahead of her first clash with Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

‘We're good friends off the court; she represents Switzerland but she speaks Slovak, so we can speak together in Czech language. She's a nice girl, and she's on fire right now, beating so many great players in the last two, three weeks. It's going to be tough,’ Pliskova said.

‘She's confident now, but I think I'm playing good tennis too, and I have some weapons. I still have to play a good game, because she beat Naomi, and it was quite quick! When she's up with her game, she can be dangerous; we've practiced together, so I can be ready.’

Osaka didn’t serve well against Bencic, and that made her vulnerable, so Pliskova will have to serve very well in order to avoid sharing the world no. 1’s fate. Nominally the Czech should be favourite with her higher ranking, greater experience and more weapons – but there’s something about Bencic at the moment: The Swiss starlet is playing with so much confidence and so little fear, and she’s been unbelievably quick to get on the front foot in rallies by going down the lines, something that should serve her well against Pliskova. It looks to me like Bencic might well extend her wining streak to 12 matches and make the semifinals at Indian Wells for the first time.

Pliskova vs Bencic BNP Paribas Open tennis is live from Indian Wells on Thursday

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Pliskova vs Bencic tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Dubai champion Bencic on 11-match winning streak coming into Indian Wells quarterfinal clash

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