Martina Navratilova explains why Karolina Pliskova is 'tricky' for Ash Barty

Ash Barty and Karolina Pliskova will play for the Wimbledon women’s singles title on Saturday after they booked their spots in the final for the first time.

Barty, the world No. 1 from Australia, and Pliskova, the Slamless former world No. 1 from the Czech Republic, will meet for the eighth time, with Barty leading their head-to-head 5-2.

One of those meetings came this year. Barty – whose sole Slam win came at the French Open in 2019 – fought back from a set down to win on the clay in Stuttgart and will enter this match as the favourite.

But Martina Navratilova, the nine-time Wimbledon singles champion, feels Pliskova has the weapons to make life tough for Barty.

Pliksova recovered from a set down against second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals in a record-breaking match at The Championships.

Barty and Pliskova routes to Wimbledon final

Barty

R1: 6-1 6-7 6-1 Suarez Navarro
R2: 6-4 6-3 Blinkova
R3: 6-3 7-5 Siniakova
R4: 7-5 6-3 Krejcikova
QF: 6-1 6-3 Tomljanovic
SF: 6-3 7-6 Kerber

Pliskova

R1: 7-5 6-4 Zidansek
R2: 6-2 6-2 Vekic
R3: 6-3 6-3 Martincova
R4: 6-2 6-3 Samsonova
QF: 6-2 6-2 Golubic
SF: 5-7 6-4 6-4 Sabalenka

The heavy-hitting pair spanked down more aces (32) than have ever been seen before in a ladies’ singles match at Wimbledon and Navratilova feels the new-and-improved Pliskova serve is a weapon that may prove too hot for Barty to handle.

‘It was the most aces and I said I’d never seen anything like it because it has never happened before,’ said Navratilova. ‘At least not at Wimbledon with both players going at it.

‘How can Barty handle it? First of all Pliskova serve: she’s tweaked it, she has changed something, which is peculiar when you have your biggest strength and you change things quite drastically.

‘She changed her stance after Covid now with Sascha Bajin he has got her tossing the ball a bit lower so she’s catching some tosses and I’m not sure she’s 100% comfortable with it but the end result has been phenomenal.

‘With the number of points she is winning off her first serve it has paid off nicely especially on grass. With that height the serve becomes more a necessity to have it as a weapon, too many women just try and get the ball in.

‘But when you’re tall its like “ok let’s make it a weapon” and that should be the case for everybody but they are still teaching women not to make it a weapon but I think she has been brought up that way from the get go and her sister Kristyna has been taught that way as well.

‘And so her height is an advantage but her technique has evolved and she is reaping the rewards now. It’s going to be tricky for Ash, Sabalenka has got one of the biggest returns in the game and she still only had one break point in three sets.

‘I think Ash will probably mix up the retruns and get moe balls in play than Sabalenka did and maybe change where she stands to return serve to get in Pliskova’s head so maybe there’s going to be a bit of cat and mouse. Most of all she needs her reflexes 100% and explode to the ball to get it in play.’

There’s a logical view that Barty will have too much for Pliskova. Too much guile. Too much know how. Too many avenues to victory.

Simply put, she’s not as reliant on power as her opponent.

‘There’s really few that have the skillset, so in order to be able to do plans for the match, different strategies for different players you need to have the tools,’ added Navratilova.

‘Ash has the tools. She’s got that drive backhand, she’s got the slice backhand, she’s got the big serve, nice return.

‘She moves well, she can come to the net, put away the volley. She can hit the drop shot, drop volley.

‘She’s got all the tools, so you can find places on the court with those tools tha other players cannot. They have more power and don’t have the variety.’

But by the same token, there’s an unescapable feeling that this is Pliskova’s time.

For years of underperforming at the majors – after making her sole appearance at a Slam final in defeat to Angelique Kerber at the 2016 US Open. she arrived at this tournament as a total outsider. Now, she appears looser, a greater threat. Is this simply just her time?

‘It is amazing how it all comes together because she was the one yesterday in her interviews when she won who said thanks to her team for keeping me positive,’ said Tracey Austin, a former world No. 1 from the USA.

‘She has had a tough year by her standards, dropping out of the top-10 for the first time in a few years and losing a little earlier.

‘A lot of those matches were close, she has worked hard. Sascha [Bajin, her coach], who she trusts, is letting her know that okay, you lost those matches but it will turn.

‘At the beginning of Wimbledon she said her goal was to get to the second week. Now she is in the final.

‘Maybe not so many expectations and it certainly is really nice to see Pliskova get to another final and have another opportunity.

‘Four or five years back we were thinking that she is the next to win a major. Then we were thinking her time had passed. A big difference to winning a major and not winning one when you retire. It’s nice to see she has another opportunity.’

Often people in this business are asked for a head rather than heart prediction and the former certainly dictates that Barty should win this title.

But there’s something in the air – against received wisdom – that has convinced me that actually this could be Pliskova’s time. Either way, it should be an entertaining battle. Prediction: Pliskova in 3.

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