WTA Brisbane: Karolina Pliskova and Lesia Tsurenko will clash for the title

2017 champion Pliskova beat Donna Vekic, while 2013 semifinal Tsurenko reached her first Premier-level final stunning a frustrated Naomi Osaka

by Alessandro Mastroluca
WTA Brisbane: Karolina Pliskova and Lesia Tsurenko will clash for the title

2017 champion Karolina Pliskova moved within a win of the second title in Brisbane as she defeated 6-3 6-4 Donna Vekic in her third straight semifinal here. The Czech will face Lesia Tsurenko. The Ukrainian needed just more than an hour to dismiss an increasingly frustrated No.2 seed Naomi Osaka 6-2 6-4 and reach her biggest final at the Brisbane International, where six years ago she reached the first of her fourth career Premier-level semifinals.

“I think so far (it was) my best match,” Pliskova said. “I was moving pretty well today, and of course the service has been great all week". Pliskova finished with an impressive 30 winners to 17 unforced errors compared to her opponent’s 25 winners and 24 unforced errors.

So she completed her third win over Vekic in four meetings and the first in straight sets. Vekic’s serve improved in the second set but one of her seven double-faults gifted Pliskova another break in the fifth game. The Croat saved three set points on serve at 3-5, before the Czech closed out the contest after 81 minutes.

Pliskova leads 3-2 over Tsurenko, having won their earliest meeting in 2009 at ITF level in Brno. Tsurenko captured her most recent, and her first WTA-level win against her, in the 2015 New Haven quarterfinals but Pliskova was the victor in their most recent match in the first round of Madrid in 2017.

The Czech, who owns an 11-11 record in WTA finals, is bidding to become the third two-time Brisbane champion in the tournament's history, following Serena Williams (2013-14) and Victoria Azarenka (2009, 2016). Having previously fallen this stage then, and later in New Haven and Moscow in 2015, Tsurenko completed her second top-5 victory to clinch her maiden final at this level and assured herself to move to a career-high No.24, or even No.23 by lifting the trophy.

Tsurenko will feature in her fifth WTA title-match, aiming to maintain her perfect record (she's 4-0 so far). At the end of the first set, she admitted to her coach Sascha Bajin, Naomi Osaka was feeling the weight of stress in her third career meeting against the Ukrainian.

The Japanese, who left Tsurenko just two games in the Us Open quarterfinal en route to her maiden Grand Slam title, lost her serve four times and totaled 22 winners to 26 unforced errors. In a very honest post-match assessment, Osaka admitted she felt flat and didn't know why.

"I’m putting myself in the situation that either I win the match or I die,” WTAtennis.com quoted her to say. "I just feel like I had the worst attitude today," she said. "I feel like I didn't really know how to cope with not playing well".

Tsurenko, who did not face a break point as she brushed aside Buzarnescu, broke serve five times to defeat wildcard Birrell, and beat No.20 Kontaveit in the quarterfinals to score first Top 20 win since upsetting No.2 Wozniacki at 2018 US Open, hit a clean 20 winners to 14 errors.

She did not face a break point until 3-2 up in the second set although Osaka failed to convert those two chances. Two games later, Tsurenko brought up two match points with a huge backhand winner down the line. Osaka momentarily saved herself with three aces and a drop-shot winner, but Tsurenko needed just another match point to seal her 121st WTA main draw win.

Karolina Pliskova Donna Vekic Naomi Osaka