Angelique Kerber vs Karolina Pliskova – 2016 US Open Final

Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova will meet on Saturday from Flushing Meadows.

The 2016 US Open final will produce a first-time winner at the Grand Slam event. Neither Angelique Kerber nor Karolina Pliskova have ever won the tournament, in fact both are making their debut in the final. The two players met a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, a match that Pliskova won, however those conditions were much different than the current ones.

Pliskova had a huge advantage in the Cincinnati final, because she entered the match fresher. In the week prior to Cincinnati, Kerber had played in the Rio Olympics, a tournament that she played the maximum number of matches in. Accordingly, she entered the Cincinnati final having played ten matches in roughly two weeks. With such little rest the German’s run just to make the final was very impressive, a testament to both her heart and drive.

However, Pliskova entered the Cincinnati final having played just four recent matches. That gave the Czech player a significant advantage and it was the main reason that Pliskova won the match in my view. In looking ahead at the US Open final, I would downplay the Cincinnati result because of the differences in fatigue levels.

The 2016 US Open final is different, because both players enter the match with more or less equal wear and tear over the last two weeks. Neither player has received a walkover or a win via retirement and, although Pliskova had a tough match in the fourth round, both have generally been winning in straight sets. I think the winner of the match will simply be the more experienced player and that’s clearly Angelique Kerber.

The German will be the top-ranked player in the world on Monday, ending the long reign of Serena Williams. Kerber’s season-to-date highlights include not just a silver medal from Rio, but a win in the Melbourne Park final. Kerber also made the 2016 Wimbledon final, so on Saturday the German will be playing in her third Grand Slam final this year. She knows what’s she’s in for while it’s Pliskova that should have the nerves – nerves that Serena Williams never totally put to the test in the last round.

Pliskova’s semifinal victory at Flushing Meadows wasn’t easy, however we did not see Williams apply the pressure that we normally see her apply. In so many key points Williams either netted the ball or hit it wide and it really alleviated the pressure on the Czech player. I don’t think that Pliskova really persevered under pressure on Thursday, rather I think she was solid in her game and that Williams failed to put the Cincinnati champion to the test. The best example is the double fault that Williams served up on match point in the close second-set tiebreaker.

I’m expecting much more out of Kerber on Saturday and I don’t think Pliskova’s serve will save the day. Look for the German to consolidate her No. 1 ranking with dipping shots at Pliskova’s shoes that the Grand Slam final debutante will have ample trouble with.

Shane Lambert