The top 10: Halep & Pliskova ready to clash

Simona Halep says that she is under pressure at the big tournaments. Perhaps, but the Romanian was a little nervous when she was playing at home in the Fed Cup against Spain. They won 3-2, but the rising Garbine Muguruza took her out.

When Halep arrived at Dubai, she was the top seed as No. 1 Serena Williams had pulled out. She admitted that everyone would be looking at her, so she had to stay in control and did not lose her head. This time, she did, knocking off the resurgent Daniela Hantuchova (who was exhausted after just winning Thailand), Tsvetana Pironkova. and then over coming Ekaterina Makarova in the quarters, whom she had lost in Australia.

On Friday, Halep was very consistent in the last two sets, whipping Carolina Wozniacki 2-6, 6-1, 6-1. She kept putting the balls deep and yanking it around. Her backhand down the line is legendary. She is very fast and while she is still up and down emotionally, when she realizes she has a very good chance, she locks it down. Now, Halep will face Karolina Pliskova in the final, who plays every week and is rising faster than anyone else.

venus_mt_uso_082813Halep badly wants to win a Grand Slam this year, but so does Wozniacki. The Denmark queen had a very good end of 2014, but this year, she has been hurt and is very frustrated. She did reach the final of Auckland but went down to Venus Williams. Then she hurt her wrist in Sydney in the first match and has to retire. Then she went to the Australian Open and was taken out by the former No. 1 and two-time champion Vika Azarenka in the second round. Caro cried after that match, which was an extremely tough loss, as while they are good friends again, she wanted to go much further.

In Dubai, Wozniacki thought she was ready to win it. Over the past six months, she has been super close; but she hasn’t won to beat the best players in front of her. However, she has been sick in Dubai and now, her left leg was also hurt. Somehow, she managed to take down Sam Stosur 7-5 in the third, and trounce Alize Cornet and Flavia Pennetta. But, after the first set win against Halep, Caro was gone. She was defensive, she was off and her face looks like she was depressed. In the third set, she wasn’t in there at all.

“The air just went out of the balloon,” she said.

Last week, maybe Wozniacki got a vicious cold because she was in New York where it was very chilly; she’s in the Sport Illustrated Swimsuit issue and had to go out at tours, events and parties. Good for her, but then having to go across the Atlantic last weekend was not going to be easy on the court.

Anyway, she can rest for a while now. By the time we see ger at Indian Wells, she will be smiling again. She smiles almost all the time. But if the No. 5 wants to reach No. 1 again, then she has to knock out the big girls. Once again, as her father and her coach says, she has to be aggressive all the time.

Back in Dubai, there were some terrific ones and tough ones.

Pliskova beat Ana Ivanovic, Lucie Safarova and Muguruza in three, all tight sets. She is very tall and cracks her first serves almost as fast as anyone out there. But can she beat Halep when she was already been on the court for hours? She is going to have to play great immediately and keep her foot on the gas.

The young Muguruza had a terrific week, even though she lost in the semis. She upended Aga Radwanska and she was ready to face off Carla Suarez, another Spaniard and her doubles partner. The No. 11 Suarez was slightly favored going into the match and the two had never faced off before. Both of them had said that it was “very difficult” to play each other. The big hitter Muguruza out shined her, winning in three long sets.

What we don’t know if the 21-year-old Muguruza might some day be as good as say Conchita Martinez, one day, but at the very least, she will make the No. 20 very soon and will be a force all year long. … Credit for Suarez upsetting Petra Kvitova, but the Czech has to be more consistent month to month. She rarely is.

Safarova has been better over all during the past year and she upset Venus Williams. Yes, the 34 year old Venus can take out just about anyone, but winning the big tournaments? Rough one…

Andrea Petkovic’s has been way, way tired after the past couple weeks which is why she went ballistic when she lost to Zarina Diyas. It’s a must see. So, so angry.

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