Karolina Pliskova is on the brink of the world’s top ten after beating both the rain and the week’s greatest giant-killer to reach the Birmingham WTA final on Saturday.
Pliskova’s 6-2 7-6 (8-6) much-interrupted win over Kristina Mladenovic, the unseeded French player who had downed three seeds, carried her to her first grass-court final, giving her the chance of climbing to another elite landmark.
Already the youngest player in the top 12, the 23-year-old Czech will take Angelique Kerber’s No.10 ranking if she wins Sunday’s final against the German, whose game looked in good order as she outplayed compatriot Sabine Lisicki 6-3 6-3 in the other semi-final.
However Pliskova might not have made the final had she not saved three set points during the second set tie-break.
She also summoned much resilience to deal with three rain delays lasting two hours and 20 minutes in total during a match just one hour and 20 minutes long.
“I was used to all that because I had it in my first match,” said Pliskova, whose second day required her to complete two matches in order to catch up with the weather-affected schedule.
“I was shaking (at the end).
“She (Mladenovic) played better in the second set than the first, and a third set would have been very tough.”
Mladenovic’s performance contained elements of that which accounted for the top-seeded Simona Halep the previous day — a rather slow start, gradual improvement in the timing of her ground strokes, and an admirable obstinacy when it came to the big points.
Despite defeat, Mladenovic may be rewarded with a leap in the rankings from her current 43 to somewhere beyond her career-best 36.
If Kerber wins on Sunday it’ll be her fourth tour title and she’ll stay in the top 10 — keeping Pliskova out.
Kerber and Pliskova are level at 2-2 in their head-to-head meetings though Pliskova has won their last two.