There seem to be cataclysms, or apparent cataclysms, happening every day at tennis tournaments. And that has been the case with the Australian Open 2019 women’s event; defending champion Caroline Wozniacki was out in the second round, while Maria Sharapova, 2016 AO champion Angelique Kerber and 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens were all beaten in the fourth round.
Still, Serena Williams vs. Karolina Pliskova and Naomi Osaka vs. Elina Svitolina are marquee match-ups in Wednesday’s bottom half quarterfinals and promise much. The career highest ranking for those players is respectively one, one, three and four.
The numbers are also impressive on the men’s side, with Novak Djokovic (a highest ranking of 1), Milos Raonic (3), Kei Nishikori (4) and Lucas Pouille (10). There are no unproven interlopers here, and high-quality tennis should be the result.
To Wednesday’s four quarterfinals:
No. 8 Karolina Pliskova vs. No. 16 Serena Williams
The Pliskova–Williams quarterfinal at Rod Laver Arena in the afternoon features a clash between two married women. The 26-year-old Pliskova got hitched with Michal Hrdlicka after Wimbledon last year, while 37-year-old Williams married Alexis Ohanian and gave birth to daughter Olympia in 2017.
Williams is certainly the one with greater familial responsibilities – looking after 16-month old Olympia. She said in her post-match interview on Monday that she and her daughter have ‘movie nights’ together and that she has seen ‘Frozen’ “3000 times” and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ “4000 times.”
It might be a distraction to some, but Williams seems to thrive on the dual role of mum and tennis player. After cruising through the first three rounds, she had a tough test against world No. 1 Simona Halep on Monday – pulling away at 3-all in the final set to win 6-1 4-6 6-4.
“I’m such a fighter, I never give up,” she said, “it’s definitely something that’s innate.”
Williams and Pliskova have played three times, and the American won the first in Stanford, California, in 2014. They have since split two US Open meetings – Pliskova winning 6-2 7-6(5) in the 2016 semifinals and Williams prevailing last year 7-5 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
They are arguably the two biggest hitters and best servers in women’s tennis, so the margins can be thin when it comes to winning points and determining outcomes. Pliskova performed at a high level in a 6-3 6-1 victory over Garbine Muguruza on Monday, and says she looks forward to Wednesday’s match-up.
“We played at the (2018) US Open,” the lanky Czech said. “I didn’t play well that match, so for sure it would be good revenge to play her again. Different conditions here. I think I’m playing a little bit better than I was last year.”
As for Williams, she’s all business especially when it comes to spending precious time away from her daughter. “She’s ready, I’m ready,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion said Monday about taking on Pliskova, “and let’s do it.”
Prediction: Williams in two sets.