In remarkable fashion, Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova came back to defeat Serena Williams 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 and book her spot in the Australian Open semifinals on Wednesday.
Pliskova had captured the opening set, but soon after things took a dramatic turn. Serena rallied to win the second set, and then built a commanding 5-1 lead in the deciding third set.
But that’s when Pliskova’s comeback began. Helped out by a foot fault on Serena’s first match point, Pliskova managed to save the first match point Serena had. A few games later, at 5-4, Serena set up three more break points, but could not convert on any of them, and Pliskova would close things out soon after.
“On one hand, I was almost in the locker room,” said Pliskova afterwards. “But now I’m standing here as the winner.”
Pliskova is now into the semifinals in Melbourne for the first time in her career.
“Before the match, this time I really believed, like, it’s still a player, I know she’s the greatest ever, but I don’t want to put her somewhere where I would not have a chance to beat her,” Pliskova said of playing Serena. “I beat her before. She was No. 1 at the time. I knew I’m going to have my chances. But I had to play well.”
Despite the hiccup in the middle of the match, Pliskova still managed to finish with an excellent ratio of 32 winners to 15 unforced errors.
“I feel I’m not doing very stupid mistakes. I’m just taking care of the balls which are in the middle of the court, around the service line,” said Pliskova. “I think it has something to do with my legs, of course. I’m more ready for these short balls. We’ve been practicing that a lot, because sometimes after a great serve, I was just sleeping, not getting ready for the ball, not getting there enough on time.”
The former U.S. Open finalist will now meet last year’s U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka. The fourth-seeded Osaka was brilliant in a 6-4, 6-1 win over sixth-seed Elina Svitolina in the day’s first quarterfinal.
“This is something that I have been working on a lot, which is trying to get deeper in tournaments more consistently. I think I have been able to do that,” said Osaka. “For me right now, I just try to keep looking forward. So I’m not really satisfied. I am happy that I’m here, but at the same time, I want to keep going. There [are] more matches to win.”
Pliskova is 2-1 all-time versus Osaka.