Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys, two of the biggest servers on the WTA Tour, face off for the first time in the final of the Brisbane International.
Karolina Pliskova vs Madison Keys is live from Brisbane on Sunday 12 January at 2pm local/4am GMT
With Ekaterina Alexandrova already in the books as the first WTA champion of 2020 at the Shenzhen Open, Pliskova and Keys will vie to become the year’s first titlist at a Premier-level tournament.
Since losing in the second round to Alla Kudryavtseva in 2015, Pliskova has won 15 of 16 matches she has played at the Brisbane International, claiming the title in 2017, reaching the semifinals in 2018 before losing to Elina Svitolina, and winning the title in 2018.
Currently there are three women – Pliskova, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka – who have won the Brisbane International twice, with the Czech bidding to become the first woman to make it a hat-trick.
Pliskova’s semifinal victory over Naomi Osaka on Saturday extended the Czech’s streak of matches won in Brisbane to eight, but not without an almighty struggle. Osaka was on a 14-match winning streak, with her last defeat coming at the US Open to Belinda Bencic, and she had a point to extend that streak to 15 as she served for the match at 6-5 in the second set. Pliskova saved the match point, broke back, won the ensuing tie-break and dominated the decider as Osaka began to fade, winning 6-7(10), 7-6(3), 6-2 in almost three hours.
The two-hour, 48-minute clash was of tremendous quality, with Pliskova serving 15 aces and saving 12 of the 13 break points she faced.
After recording her first top-10 win of 2020 and ensuring that she will be seeded second at the Australian Open, Pliskova said:
‘It was a good match. I’m especially proud that I stayed in there because it could have gone a really bad way after the first set, which was huge and so close and so nervous.
‘The main positive was that I somehow stayed close to her, even when she broke me in that game at 5-all. I was still fighting, which was the most positive thing today.’
Currently coached by Dani Vallverdu and Olga Savchuk, Pliskova has a 15-12 record in WTA finals but has won her last three, with her most recent defeat coming to Ash Barty in the Miami Open final last March.
Madison Keys also had to pull off a comeback effort to reach the Brisbane International final. The American was trailing Petra Kvitova 3-6, 0-2 before turning things around to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Kvitova and Keys have a history of close matches, with the head-to-head poised at 3-3 coming into this match, which was their first meeting since 2016. The left-handed Czech, a former Brisbane International champion and last year’s Australian Open finalist, dominated the opening stretch of the game before Keys went on a tear to level the match and lead by a break in the decider. Kvitova broke Keys back twice, but could not hold, and a tussle down the stretch ended with Keys the stronger. Ultimately, the American won 12 of the last 15 games to reach her first final of 2020.
‘Petra was playing really well, and I felt like I had chances to be in the match but didn’t really close on those opportunities.
‘I feel like the momentum kind of kept going back and forth, but I was able to get a little bit of confidence and feel like I could work my way back into the second set. I had a quick break at the start of the third, which also helped me feel like just carry on that momentum and confidence.’
Keys won titles in Charleston and Cincinnati and made the French Open quarterfinals in 2019. The 2017 US Open finalist is looking for her first title in Brisbane and the sixth of her career. She has a 5-4 record in finals.
Remarkably, since both have been at or around the top of the game for the past few years, Pliskova and Keys have never played. ‘Karolina has been no. 1 in the world, she’s the ace queen,’ Keys said.
‘It’s always great to start the year playing some really good tennis. I’ve definitely started the year playing some really terrible tennis, so it’s nice to be on this side of things for once.’
Living up to her moniker, Pliskova has hit 35 aces so far at the Brisbane International in 2020 to Keys’s 20, but these two women are among the most powerful servers in the game, so it’s certainly going to be a match of quick points. Both are playing great tennis but Pliskova has a little more experience at winning titles, especially in Brisbane, so I back her to claim her third Brisbane International title.