Caroline Wozniacki reaches her first Miami Open final, tops Pliskova

Caroline Wozniacki has reached the final of the Miami Open for the first time in her career, as the No.12 seed rallied from a set down to beat No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on Thursday in the first semifinal.

“It’s definitely special,” Wozniacki said. “I’ve made a few finals in Indian Wells and I’ve won it once. This is one of the few tournaments where I’ve never made finals. I think my best result was semifinals like five years ago. You know, it’s always been a tournament where I wouldn’t say I’ve struggled, but just not had the results that I’ve wanted to.”

Wozniacki’s previous best result in Miami was a semifinal appearance in 2012, but with the victory, the World No.14 has now advanced to the final of all four mandatory Premier WTA events in her career.

“She started off really strongly and had quite a few winners to start off the match. I was like, ‘Okay, welcome to the semifinals,'” the Dane said, after Pliskova hit 24 winners in the opening set. “I need to step it up a little bit; I need to hit it a little bit harder and try and take the ball a little bit earlier. I kind of worked my way into the match.”

“Then I had set points in the first set, and it was kind of tough losing that set,” Wozniacki added, talking about the three set points she missed in the 10th game of the first set. “It was tough mentally kind of having to pull myself back up, but I got a good start to the second set and kind of went on a roll from there.”

A nine-minute service hold got the Dane on the board in the second set, and then broke straightaway and held again to go up 3-0. Pliskova made a push twice from there, holding serve and reeling out a break point in the fifth game, and then also created a couple of break chances as the Dane served for the set at 5-1.

But it was the two-time US Open finalist who came up with clutch serves when she needed them the most.

“I try to stay aggressive, make her move, and get to a lot of balls,” Wozniacki said. “Even when she thought she had won the point, I was like, ‘No, I’m still going to get it back.’ I definitely think that I returned pretty decent as well. I think that was frustrating for her. I thought that in key moments I served well. I think my second serve was effective as well today.”

The Czech was ultimately undone by her first serve percentage after the opening set, as she landed just 29 percent of her first serves in the second set and was unable to break through Dane’s defences, striking just six winners in seven games.

“I felt after the first set, I just put everything in the first set so it was really difficult to play the rallies with her,” Pliskova said. “It was the best match she played against me so far, she played really well, not missing much, all my balls she put back even deep, so it was hard to play aggressively.”

In the decider, Wozniacki got the break on her first chance in the opening game and never allowed Pliskova to get back from there. A break in the fifth and seventh games secured the match for the Dane, as a final Pliskova forehand went wide to wrap up the victory in two hours, 16 minutes.

In the championship match, Wozniacki will play Johanna Konta, who defeated Venus Williams 6-4 7-5.