Two facts stand out about tomorrow’s matchup between second-seeded Angelique Kerber and 15th-seeded Karolina Pliskova: 1. A new Cincinnati women’s champion will be crowned, and 2. Kerber will rise to the world No. 1 ranking by winning the title at the Western & Southern Open.
“For me, there are no favorites,” said Kerber, who reached the Cincinnati final in 2012. “It's 50/50 always when you go out there. You have to play your best, especially when you're in the final. So that will be my goal. It's step by step, and still one more step to go.”
Kerber has enjoyed the best year of her career. The 28-year-old German won the Australian Open to start the year, reached the finals of Wimbledon and earned a silver medal for Germany in Olympic singles.
Pliskova has won a singles title this season, picking up the Eastbourne title on grass. She has five career WTA singles titles.
WORLD NO. 1: With a victory, Kerber would be 22nd woman to attain the WTA World No.1 Singles Ranking since computer rankings were introduced in November 1975 with Chris Evert in top spot. She would end Serena Williams’ streak of 183 consecutive weeks at No.1 and would be 88th time the No.1 spot has changed hands over the past four decades. At the age of 28, she would be the oldest player in WTA history to make her debut at No.1. She would be the second German to reach No. 1, joining the great Steffi Graf.
HEAD TO HEAD: Kerber leads Pliskova 4-2, and Sunday will mark the first meeting between the players this year. They faced three times in 2015 with Kerber winning two of three matches.
ACE MACHINE: Pliskova totaled five more aces in her semifinal victory over Garbine Muguruza — including four in the second set — to boost her tournament ace total to 40. She had 15 aces in both her third round and quarterfinal match. She leads the WTA with most aces this season with an even 400.
PLISKOVA REACHES FIRST CINCY FINAL
Using her power game to control the match in windy conditions, Karolina Pliskova defeated fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-3 to advance to her first Cincinnati final.
Pliskova broke Muguruza’s serve five times and finished the match in exactly one hour, leaving the court with the victory just as the first drops of afternoon rain started to fall.
“I didn't look at the sky at all,” Pliskova said. “I didn't know something was coming. Maybe was better. I just tried to close the match and didn't think about anything else.”
Muguruza was up a break in 3-2 in the second set, but Pliskova reeled off the final four games of the match. Muguruza said that although she was ahead at that point, the weather conditions and Pliskova’s shotmaking made staging a rally difficult.
“I think she really played very well with the wind,” Muguruza said. “She was finding her shots, and me completely opposite. I didn't feel comfortable at any moment.”
While Pliskova was bidding for both the singles and doubles titles, she lost in the doubles semifinals with teammate Julia Goerges.
CINCY SPECIFICS: Coming into the tournament seeded No. 15, Pliskova is the lowest seeded player to reach the women’s final at Cincinnati. Eight unseeded players have reached the final over the years. She is the first player from the Czech Republic to reach the women’s final.
KERBER ADVANCES, HISTORY ON THE LINE
Second-ranked Angelique Kerber reached her second Cincinnati final with a 6-3, 6-4 semifinal victory over third-ranked Simona Halep in their fourth meeting of the season.
A seven-game surge for Kerber proved to be the difference. Kerber reeled off the last three games in the first set, breaking Halep to go up 5-3 before serving out the set. Kerber then went ahead 4-0 in the second set and stayed in front, serving out the second set 6-4.
Kerber and Halep played just two weeks ago in Montreal with Halep winning 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 in the semifinals. Kerber won meetings earlier in the season at Wimbledon and in Fed Cup.
Just off her Olympic silver medal performance last week in Rio, Kerber said she did not have any expectations for her Cincinnati performance after an emotional and rewarding experience of playing for Germany.
“To come here, I was just trying to playing match by match,” Kerber said. “Not thinking about my draws, my opponents, about nothing. Just going out there trying to win every match, because every match was different here. That's why I'm really happy.”
Halep concluded her US Open preparations by going on to win the tournament in Montreal and reaching the semifinals here. She made the semifinals in New York last year.
“I can say that I didn't expect to win Montre´al and play semifinals again here,” Halep said. “(It was) two good weeks for me. I'm happy. I worked hard in the gym before coming here, so I had about four good weeks.”
CINCY SPECIFICS: Kerber is into her second Cincinnati singles final, becoming the fifth active player to reach multiple finals at the Western & Southern Open (Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonareva). Kerber reached the 2012 final, losing to Li Na 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. No German woman has won the Cincinnati title.