Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 11 July 2020

Karolina Pliskova outlasts Naomi Osaka to reach Brisbane final and lay down marker for Australian Open

World No 2 will defend her title against eighth-seeded American Keys

Karolina Pliskova, left, and Naomi Osaka shake hands at the net after their match in the Brisbane International semi-finals. AP Photo
Karolina Pliskova, left, and Naomi Osaka shake hands at the net after their match in the Brisbane International semi-finals. AP Photo

Karolina Pliskova continued her preparations for the Australian Open by defeating Naomi Osaka in a high-quality three-set contest to reach the Brisbane International final on Saturday.

World No 3 Pliskova triumphed 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 in a two hour, 48 minute marathon and will play eighth-seeded American Madison Keys in the decider.

She was forced to come from a set down, then save a match point at 5-6 in the second, before seeing off the reigning Australian Open champion.

The two are no strangers to long matches against each other - Osaka edged Pliskova 6-4 in the third in the Australian Open semi-finals on her way to the title - but few could have expected a match of this quality and length in the first tournament of the year.

With both players serving exceptionally well, the first set almost inevitably went to a tiebreak, which Osaka clinched on her fifth set point.

The second set was a repeat of the first with few opportunities to break until Pliskova faltered at 5-5 to give Osaka the chance to serve for the match.

She came from 0-30 down to 40-30, but Pliskova rallied, saved match point and then broke Osaka to send the set to a tiebreak. Osaka then saw the third set slip away with two service breaks.

"That was one of the best matches that I've played on this court," said Pliskova, who will attempt to defend the Brisbane title on Sunday. "It was a great standard, and she's always tough to play against.

"I think I did a good job to stay in there after a tough first set, and in the second I just kept fighting and it paid off."

In the first semi-final, Keys held firm when it counted to defeat two tie Wimbledon champion Kvitova 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and make her first Brisbane final.

After losing the first set and being down an early break in the second, Keys began to serve more effectively and find her range with her groundstrokes against an increasingly nervous Kvitova.

From 0-2 down and staring a semi-final exit in the face, the eighth seeded Keys broke back to make it 2-2 and surged ahead to level the match.

Both players struggled to hold serve in the final set -- there were five service breaks in a row -- but at 5-3 Keys held her nerve and from 0-30 she won four points in a row to become the first American into a Brisbane final since Serena Williams won the title in 2014.

Updated: January 11, 2020 05:48 PM

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