Karolina Pliskova vs Agnieszka Radwanska: Cincinnati Masters first round preview and prediction

(Photo credit: Malcolm Murdoch)

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In a battle of former Grand Slam finalists, ninth seed Karolina Pliskova, who finished runner-up at the US Open in 2016, takes on Agnieszka Radwanska, the Wimbledon finalist in 2012. Pliskova has endured a slightly disappointing season which has seen her slip outside the top eight, though she did record her best finish at Wimbledon with a run to the fourth round. Radwanska, meanwhile, remains a wily competitor but has been short of fitness of late. Who will come out on top?


Pliskova and Radwanska have met seven times so far in their careers and the numbers do not make good reading for the Czech, who has lost all seven without winning a set. The run of Radwanska victories began in 2012 in Kuala Lumpur with a 6-4 6-4 win and has included victories at the French Open, on the grass at Devonshire Park and the hard courts of Tokyo. Their most recent meeting came at the tail-end of 2016, when Radwanska beat Pliskova in Singapore 7-5 6-3.


Last time out

Following Pliskova’s run to the fourth round at Wimbledon, where she was the last top ten seed standing before losing 3-6 6-7 to Kiki Bertens, Pliskova elected not to play again until the Canadian Open. There she began with a solid 6-4 6-4 win over her countrywoman Katerina Siniakova to set up a rematch with Bertens in the second round. But in Montreal, Bertens was even more comfortable, winning 6-2 6-2.

Radwanska has had a season badly disrupted by injury. After losing in the round of 16 in Miami, she did not take to the court again until April at the Istanbul Open, where she retired from her first-round match against Donna Vekic. She returned in Eastbourne, making a good run to the semifinals where she lost narrowly to Aryna Sabalenka. But she could not sustain that form into Wimbledon where she lost second round to Lucie Safarova and has not played since.

How do they match up?

Pliskova is at her best when dominating from the back of the court backed by her powerful serve and heavy groundstrokes. It is her serve that is her best weapon and when it is firing she can be almost unplayable. Her forehand and backhand are capable of providing her with a fair number of winners, but can also bleed unforced errors. Her movement can be exploited as well, with Pliskova far from the most mobile of players.

Radwanska has little of Pliskova’s power. Indeed, she has little power compared with anyone on the Tour. But she makes up for that lack of pace behind her shots with excellent court craft and skilled defence. Radwanska excels at using her opponent’s pace against them, whilst also drawing them forward or pushing them out wide with clever use of angles. She is also clearly not an opponent Pliskova enjoys playing, as evidenced by their one sided head-to-head.


But one-sided though their rivalry has been thus far, this seems like a good time to play Radwanska, who will surely be short of match sharpness and fitness after such a disjointed season. Pliskova is not in the best form herself, but in fairness, Bertens in the second round in Montreal was a tough draw and her results at Wimbledon were respectable. Expect Pliskova to finally out hit Radwanska and reach the second round a winner in three sets.