Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Lucic-Baroni into a semi final

First quarter final on Day Ten and Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova's opponent was 34 year old Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, unseeded, but with the big upset win over third seed Aga Radwanska in the second round to her credit.  Mirjana made a Wimbledon semi final as a 17 year old
The two haven't played each other since 2015 when they had three meetings, Karolina winning twice, including the most recent in three close sets.

Pliskova defeated Daria Gavrilova in straight sets in the round of sixteen to make her first Aus Open quarter final, while Lucic-Baroni trouble disposing of American qualifier Jennifer Brady, also in two sets.

Mirjana won the toss and served.  After four errors, three to Pliskova, a Lucic-Baroni winner put her on the scoreboard first.
Break point after a Pliskova double fault and error was saved with an ace.  Then another.  Big serving and the game was hers 1-1.
Strong returning from Karolina, including a backhand winner tight in the corner, turned Mirjana's 30-0 into a loss of serve. 2-1 Pliskova.

An ace, an off forehand wrong footer and service winner were enough to stretch the Czech lead to 3-1.   Mirjana's forehand crosscourt and ace were perfect responses to Karolina's beautifully timed lob.  The finishing winner brought the Croatian to 2-3.

The ace machine had temporarily run out of batteries and while she was looking for replacements, Mirjana whipped two forehand winners past her.  Two break points arose from the wreckage this created, and only one could be saved.  3-3.

Mirjana completed a good follow up game and led 4-3, a forehand winner to start and an ace to finish.  Karolina stemmed the flow against her with a solid hold and levelled at 4-4.
At 4-5, it needed something similar to keep the set alive.

Two backhand winners from Mirjana had Karolina in trouble and an unforced error three set points down.  The set was Croatian on the second in a big shock 6-4.

Set two continued in the same fashion with a stack of mistakes from the fifth seed.  1-0 to Mirjana after an easy hold.  The winners were coming fast and furious, and to both sides of a hapless Pliskova, who belted a forehand out of court to drop yet another serve and trail 0-2.

Three unforced errors in the next service game from Lucic-Baroni gave Pliskova break points, one saved by a winner, but not the next, and games were back on serve 1-2.
Trainer called for Pliskova.  A medical timeout was had.
Not able to dominate with her serve, Pliskova did enough to hold and level at 2-2, surviving a couple of clean Mirjana winners.

Mirjana found herself down more break points and once again was a victim of her own mistakes, and a final shot into the net cost her the serve and Karolina had the edge 3-2.
It was handed straight back with a poor service game. 3-3.  Karolina could not win any free points on her serve and it was affecting her total game.

Lucky for Karolina that Mirjana wasn't holding serve any time soon, even with two aces.  4-3 now and a serve to come for Pliskova.  Backhand winners from each player were pretty to watch, but the forehand that Pliskova managed to first reach and then hit crosscourt deep enough to keep her in the final point and eventually win was wonderful.

Maybe it was the spark that not only won her that point and the game, but also the next which was a break for the set 6-3.
This was going to require a decider.

Karolina faced a break point straight away following another winner down the line from Mirjana.  That was saved with a big serve, but a second one couldn't be and Lucic-Baroni had seized back the momentum, leading 1-0 in the third.
Two successive double faults and the break back came 1-1.

Two break points on the Pliskova delivery and a slashing return winner did the trick.  A third break from three tries and this was difficult to predict.  Lucic-Baroni 2-1.
Hitting clean winners to either side of a stunned Pliskova, Lucic-Baroni was 40-0 in a flash.  Pliskova clawed it back to 30-40 but that was all and now the lead was 3-1.

Pliskova sailed through the next game to keep in touch at 2-3.  
Starting with a double fault, it became worse, and a winner from Pliskova brought up three break points.  Two were saved, but the game was Czech and 3-3.

At last Pliskova appeared to have rediscovered her serving ability and it assisted her to take the third set lead for the first time 4-3.
Trainer called - this time for Mirjana.  Medical timeout.

It helped as she won the next four points to hold serve for 4-4.
Love game to break the Pliskova serve and Lucic-Baroni was serving for the match.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni won 6-4 3-6 6-4.  Medical time outs are amazing things aren't they ?  I think she had a dangerously low level of momentum which needed attention.

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