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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday September 20, 2020

Karolina Pliskova is one step from a successful title defense at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, but a difficult foe stands in her way.

The World No.4 Czech knocked off compatriot Marketa Vondrousova, 6-2 6-4, on Sunday to book a final with Simona Halep on Monday.

Tennis Express

“Every match I feel like my level is a little bit higher, and the girls are tough on clay,” Pliskova said after the match. “Of course clay has never been like my favorite surface but now I know that I can play some great tennis and I can win tournaments on clay, too.”

Pliskova struggled in North America and ended up winning just one of three matches before heading back to Europe this summer (including a second-round exit at the US Open), but she said the experience of playing in a bubble and getting back into the competitive swing of things has helped her prepare for the clay in Rome.

It was a solid victory for Pliskova, who needed just one hour and 22 minutes to stop the No.12-seeded 21-year-old to reach her 29th career final.

Pliskova has dropped one set en route to the final, that against the WTA’s win leader in 2020, Elise Mertens, in the quarterfinals. Halep has also dropped just one set, the Romanian needed three to get past Garbiñe Muguruza 6-3 4-6 6-4 earlier on Sunday.

Though she’s not in love with the clay like her opponent in Monday’s final, Pliskova is starting to enjoy her time on the surface more as the years go by.

“It’s been a strange relationship with clay but it’s not like I hate it,” she said. “I more hate grass than clay, but you know I think I had some great weeks. Of course I played semis in Paris [in 2017], so it’s not like I don’t really look forward to play on clay.

“Of course it’s a nice change because we are on hard courts for quite a long time and I know I can play [on clay], and actually I feel like I have more time on my game on clay, so I feel like some of the best matches that I’ve played were on clay.”

Pliskova mentioned the 2017 Roland Garros semifinal against Halep as an important moment for her in terms of realizing her potential on the clay, as well as her title in Rome last year, when she defeated Johanna Konta in the final, but also toppled Victoria Azarenka, Sofia Kenin and Maria Sakkari.

“When I won this tournament here I think it was a big step and now I [am happy that I] can do it again without really having huge preparation on clay, because there was not much time.”

Pliskova also says she has more belief after facing Halep several times on clay. She owns a 4-7 lifetime record against the Romanian but has taken their last two matchups, which were both played on hard courts.

“That [Roland Garros semfinal] kind of helped me just to believe that even on clay I can beat her, even though it’s like her surface not mine,” she said. “It’s never going to be easy with her, no matter which tournament it is, but it’s going to be a great final.”


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