Bianca Andreescu and Karolina Pliskova meet at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen on Wednesday, with both players looking to get a crucial first win of the tournament.
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Andreescu fell just short in her opening group match against Simona Halep on Monday, failing to convert match point in a 3-6 7-6 6-3 defeat, while Pliskova was edged out in two tight sets by defending champion, Elina Svitolina in her own tournament opener.
Making her WTA Finals debut, US Open champion, Andreescu made a confident start against Halep, powering through four consecutive games to take the opening set. The second set was a lot more competitive as Halep battled back, twice leading by a break, but Andreescu restored parity on both occasions, and forced a match point when Halep served to stay in the match at 5-6. She couldn’t convert, and went on to drop the set on a tie break, before losing her way as the deciding set developed.
The teenager actually got the first break of the final set, but she lost five of six games from 2-1 to concede defeat. The world No. 4 received a medical attention on a back problem late in the match, and she suggested that the injury might have played a part in the eventual outcome of the match.
“…she started putting more balls in the court, first of all. Then in the third set, I really don’t want to blame my back, but I felt like I didn’t have the same power as I did in the first and second set,” Andreescu said after the match. “But I fought well with what I had in the third. I’m proud of that. Still pretty disappointed.”
“It was a good match. She fought really hard. I didn’t take my chances in the second set, so I’m really disappointed about that.”
Fingers crossed, that back holds up for the rest of the tournament…
Andreescu has had her injury problems this year- she barely played between April and July due to a shoulder injury, but she was absolutely sensational either side of that break, winning Indian Wells in March, and adding the Toronto and US Open titles in August and September. She went on an amazing 16-match winning streak after her injury break, before eventually losing to Naomi Osaka in the quarter finals of the China Open in Beijing.
Ranked outside the top-100 at the start of the year, Andreescu has surged into the top-4 in 2019, compiling a staggering 35-6 record for the season. Eight of those wins were against top-ten players- in fact, she won her first eight matches against players from that elite group, but she has now lost back-to-back matches against top-ten opposition- Naomi Osaka in Beijing, and now, Halep in Shenzhen.
She gets another chance to take down one of the best in the business on Wednesday as she confronts world No. 2, Karolina Pliskova.
Pliskova ran into a recent nemesis in her WTA Finals opener, falling to a fourth straight defeat against defending champion, Elina Svitolina on Monday.
She fought gamely in an incredibly tight opening set, saving six set points before dropping the tie break 14-12 (she had a set point at 9-8). She recovered from an early break in the second set, but she continuously had problems hitting through Svitolina, and eventually succumbed to a 7-6 6-4 defeat. Pliskova naturally forced the issue against the counterpunching Ukrainian, hitting 37 winners against Svitolina’s 21, but she sprayed 42 unforced errors, more than doubling her opponent’s count (16). She will hope to get back on track on Wednesday as she looks to cap a fine season with her biggest career title in Shenzhen.
The Czech has won more titles than anyone else on the tour this season, picking up trophies in Brisbane, Rome, Stuttgart and Shenzhen, while she also made a final in Miami, and the semi-finals of the Australian Open, building up an impressive 49-14 record for the year. However, her recent results have not been great as she heads into Wednesday’s meeting with Andreescu on a three-match losing streak. The world No. 2 was beaten by Dayana Yastremska in the third round in Wuhan; she lost to Jelena Ostapenko in her Beijing opener, and fell to Svitolina in Shenzhen on Monday.
Pliskova has made the semi-finals in each of her two previous WTA Finals campaigns- in 2017 and 2018- but the second seed will be in danger of missing out this year if she doesn’t beat Andreescu on Wednesday. In fact, if she loses in straight sets, she will have no chance of making the last four.
Andreescu was victorious in their only previous meeting, edging a roller-coaster contest 6-0 2-6 6-4 on her way to the Rogers Cup title in August. The US Open champion is not a good match-up for Pliskova in my opinion, as she is not only able to force the Czech on the defensive with her power, but can also put her opponent into uncomfortable positions with her exquisite touch- exploiting Pliskova’s movement.
Pliskova, of course, has got weapons to hurt Andreescu, and they must all be firing on Wednesday. She must serve very well, and stay very aggressive, while limiting the errors, if she is to get the win over the Canadian teenager.
Bianca Andreescu vs Karolina Pliskova is live from Shenzhen on Wednesday, 30 October from 8:00pm local time/ 12:00pm GMT