Karolina Pliskova is trying not to focus too much on her current eight-match winning streak but admits the fact that it has come on clay makes it special, particularly now as she prepares to take on Simona Halep in the Madrid quarter-finals on Thursday.
Halep has won her last 15 matches at the Caja Magica – the latest being a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over the other Pliskova twin, Kristyna.
Karolina Pliskova, who has improved a lot on clay over the past 12 months and made the 2017 Roland Garros semi-finals, before falling to Halep, trails the Romanian 1-6 head-to-head.
It is a match-up the tall Czech struggles with, but she can take confidence from how well she played against Halep in that French Open semi-final, stretching her to three sets before surrendering.
Pliskova, who won the Stuttgart title less than two weeks ago, had never made it past the second round in Madrid prior to this week and she’s now in the quarter-finals thanks to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
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“I try not to look back. So for me, like Stuttgart is over, but it’s good if I remember that we are on clay, so I didn’t lose any match on clay, except the one match against Julia (Goerges) in Fed Cup,” said Pliskova, when asked about her winning streak.
“So it feels good, for confidence for sure, it’s good to know I have like eight matches won on clay. Not only for this tournament, but for the next two tournaments coming up, Paris and Rome, it’s for sure good to know that I have couple of matches, tough matches, easy matches, everything possible now I have under my belt.”
Stephens entered the match with a 3-0 winning record against top-10 opposition in 2018 and she was actually the first to break serve on Wednesday.
But Pliskova won 20 of the following 22 points to retaliate, running away with the next five games to grab the opening set.
The Czech world No. 6 did not slow down in the second set, racing to a 4-1 lead and wrapped up the victory in 63 minutes.
Having already navigated a tough draw that saw her overcome Elena Vesnina, Victoria Azarenka and now Stephens, Pliskova is now ready for another huge test against Halep.
“There is not much to talk about because we know everything, you and I,” Pliskova said with a laugh. “On clay I played one of my best matches last year (in Paris). I lost but it was a very good match I think, I felt good, so there is no reason – now I have nothing to lose. My draw is very sh**** because having those three players in a row, you can have them in finals or semis but first, second, third round, and now Simona that’s the last point on the cake.
“But I have to somehow fight with it. I know she likes this tournament after being two times champion and now back in the quarters. I have to maybe try something different a little bit than I was playing the last couple of matches against her.”
Pliskova believes re-watching that French Open showdown from last year could be useful.
“I go sometimes back to this match because I felt well there so it’s a good match to see. I was not overpowering the shots, I was playing rallies, a little bit similar to today, playing rallies but in a kind of aggressive way. And waiting for some shorter ball and then I’ll attack,” said the 26-year-old.
“This is how I want to play but maybe it’s not going to be enough so then I have to push more a little bit.”