Angelique Kerber vs. Karolina Pliskova
I was at the women’s semifinal matches today in Cincinnati. I was impressed with Pliskova’s ability to dictate play with her solid serve and powerful ball striking. The Czech also handled the windy conditions much better than Garbine Muguruza did. Mental toughness, strong serving, and solid ball striking all give Pliskova a chance versus Angelique Kerber. So too does the pressure Kerber will be facing in trying to claim the world #1 ranking.
The problem Pliskova faces is Kerber’s ability to extend points when on the defensive. Muguruza only used her topspin forehand to solid effect one time in their entire match. So long as Kerber is not frozen with fear, her forehand will be a factor quite a bit more often. That does not assure Kerber of victory, but it will be a very different match for Pliskova.
Pliskova’s biggest comparative advantage is her serve. It is more powerful and consistent than Kerber’s. Everything else looks to be either neutral or in Kerber’s favor. If Pliskova can dictate play most of the time, the match could go either way. If Kerber has Pliskova on the run with some frequency, Kerber will be the new WTA world #1.
My Prediction: Angelique Kerber d. Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3 – So long as Kerber is not mentally overawed, she should win this match. If less were at stake, I’d pick Kerber to win more comfortably than this scoreline.
Confidence in my pick – Moderately high
Will she reach another milestone in 2016?