MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – Karolina Pliskova said saving four match points against Serena Williams had got into the American’s “head” as the Czech completed an epic comeback win to reach her first Australian Open semi-finals today.
Seventh seed Pliskova saved a match point at 5-1 down in the deciding set and another three at 5-4 before Williams crumbled 4-6 6-4 7-5 in front of a stunned crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
The nerve-jangling win booked the tall Czech her first Melbourne semi-finals and she will meet U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka for a place in the title-decider.
Pliskova described the victory as the comeback of her life but one that wouldn’t have happened without some assistance from her 23-times Grand Slam champion opponent.
“She was already match point up in that 5-1 game. Lots of things happened … in those games. I just felt a chance,” she told reporters.
“I think she maybe got little bit, I don’t know, for sure it was in her head. Lots of things happen.
“I saw a chance and I just took it.”
The big-serving Czech was brilliant in the face of defeat, capturing the decisive break in the 11th game before sealing the win on a third match point when Williams slapped a forehand into the net, her 37th unforced error.
Having avenged her loss to Williams at the U.S. Open quarter-finals, Pliskova now has an enviable Grand Slam record against the American great, having beaten her in two of their three matches at the majors.
Pliskova toppled Williams at the 2016 U.S. Open semi-finals when the American was top seed but felt the 37-year-old Williams she faced at Melbourne Park had played better.
“I think honestly she played much better than when she was playing when I beat her in New York. The match was so much better.
“There were more mistakes (in New York). Maybe she was nervous, it was in States.”
Pliskova, who reached world number one in 2017 but has yet to claim a Grand Slam title, has a chance to regain the top ranking if she wins the tournament.
Her next opponent Osaka and compatriot Petra Kvitova, who faces Danielle Collins in the next match, are also in the running to be crowned number one.
“I don’t want to say it means zero, but it doesn’t mean the same. Right now in this situation (it) would not mean the same as winning the Grand Slam,” she said.
“I’m not going to chase this, so for me nothing is changing.”
Pliskova has won two out of three of her matches against Osaka. She fell to the hard-hitting 21-year-old in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells last year before beating her in front of home fans in their last meeting at the Japan Open title-decider.
“Yeah, I’ve played a few hitters here in the last matches, obviously Camila Giorgi, now Serena. I think I’m well prepared for Naomi,” said 26-year-old Pliskova.
“If I play well, I think for sure there is a chance.”