Photo: Sarah-Jade Champagne / Tennis Canada
The ultimate showdown at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers stars two unexpected—and quite refreshing—finalists.
Karolina Pliskova will be competing in her very first Canadian final, though she’s already collected quite a few winner’s trophies at leading tournaments. It’s actually her rival who took everyone by surprise.
At 29 years old, World No.71 Camila Giorgi will battle to win her first WTA 1000 title.
A TENNIS LESSON FROM KAROLINA PLISKOVA
Aryna Sabalenka may have gained some ground over Karolina Pliskova in the rankings, but the Czech ace knows how to outmaneuver the Belarusian when it really counts. By disposing of Sabalenka on Saturday (6-3, 6-4), Pliskova repeated—and bettered—her performance in the Wimbledon semi earlier this summer.
There wasn’t a tremendous amount of suspense, since Sabalenka made too many errors to ever be able to secure the win. Pliskova, on the other hand, was practically perfect.
On the court, the two heavy hitters lived up to their reputations in terms of aces scored and shots blasted from the baseline.
Pliskova secured an early lead with a break in the third game. Sabalenka was plagued by unforced errors as Pliskova executed impeccable tennis, placed the ball in every opening and efficiently closed out the first set in 34 minutes with another break.
The second set was much of the same. There was no early lead, but there were a lot of unforced errors by Aryna Sabalenka, who managed to earn a break but couldn’t consolidate.
“Checkmate! A flawless performance!” exclaimed a Sportsnet commentator on the last shot. Sabalenka walked up to the net, angrily threw her racquet towards the bench and offered the winner a deplorable handshake that can be chalked up to her missing out on a fantastic opportunity and letting her huge disappointment get the better of her.
But beyond the final score and errors on the other side, Karolina Pliskova taught a clinic on winning shots and calm control, bringing their head-to-head to 2-2.
“I think I played very smart, today, and I was using the wind, waiting for her mistakes. My focus was full, and I did not make many mistakes,” she said after the match.
Very happy to be competing in her first Canadian final, Pliskova was nonplussed when it came time to talk about her eventual opponent.
“I know I’ve been losing to them this year. Everybody knows that,” she said with a smile. “It’s a final. We never played in a final. I suppose it’s a different match in the final than it is in the first or second round. I mean, I have nothing to lose. I believe I’m playing quite solid here this week.”
Pegula comes up short
The two other semifinalists may not be as towering as Pliskova or Sabalenka, but Jessica Pegula (5’7”) and Camila Giorgi (5’6”) have just as much firepower. Their furious rallies took many by surprise and made for very high caliber competition.
Giorgi bulldozed her way through the main draw without dropping a single set, and four of her wins were at the expense of seeded opponents: Mertens (9), Kvitova (7) and Gauff (15). As for Pegula, she fought in four three-setters, losing the first set in three of them.
At 4-1 in the opening set, Jessica Pegula retreated to the locker room for a medical timeout and came back with a bandage on her right thigh. Still, the pause didn’t change the outcome, and the set went to Giorgi (6-3). Pegula bounced back to win the second set by the same score thanks to a break in the second game.
In the final set, Pegula got a break on a double fault by Giorgi that may have foreshadowed another miracle on her part, but the American’s fitness and string of tough matches caught up to her. She was broken in the second game and lost the five that followed. Worse still, Giorgi gave away only 1 of 13 points in her next three service games.
With her 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win, Camila Giorgi entered the most important final of career.
When asked to what she owed her consistency after losing only 4 of her last 13 matches, Giorgi replied: “I think it’s just because we’ve been working on many things. We changed some things about the game to make it more tactical, more strategic.”
Let’s not forget that Camila Giorgi defeated Karolina Pliskova twice in 2020.
But not in a final.
Dabrowski IN THE FINAL
There is a Canadian in the final of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
And that Canadian is none other than Gabriela Dabrowski, World No.15 in doubles. She and her partner No.22 Luisa Stefani of Brazil eliminated No.19 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan and No.16 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia in two quick sets (6-2, 6-3) that lasted just over an hour. (
In the final, they face sixth seeds Darija Jurak of Croatia and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia, who defeated Dabrowski and Stefani in the final in San Jose just last week.
“I’m definitely happy to play them again but I don’t look at it as revenge, though,” said Dabrowski. “I actually feel that it gives a little bit of a negative taste to it. I’m excited to see if I’m able to implement what I learned from the final last week, and I’m hoping it works better this week. We’ll find out tomorrow.”
Gabriela will be out to win her first Canadian final, which is actually her second first this week since she played her first doubles match on Centre Court on Saturday night. In front of fans, no less!
“I think they were excited that I was the only Canadian left and that they had someone to cheer for. And it’s really cool, this week, because Canada has citizens of so many different cultures. A lot of people get to be cheering for everyone. Tomorrow, even if I’m Canadian, I’m sure we’ll have Brazilian fans, Slovenian fans, Croatian fans. So, it’s a cool atmosphere.”
Dabrowski repeated a feat achieved by Helen Kelesi, the only other Canadian to reach the doubles final at home in the past 50 years.