Match Preview: Karolina Plikova v Ekaterina Makarova

In one of the more headlining second round clashes will see fifth seed Karolina Pliskova against former top ten star Ekaterina Makarova in the second match on Court 1 at the Miami Open. The higher ranked Pliskova is the favourite but it is still by a reasonably tight margin so the result is still up in the air.

Recent Form

Although Karolina Pliskova has been posting good results this year she has not played at the level that fans or herself would expect as she has not been as sharp and lethal as she was in the middle half of last year. Her first event was the Brisbane International where she was defending champion and she reached the semifinals there with a win over Catherine Bellis but then ended up falling to eventual champion Elina Svitolina. At the Australian Open, she defended her quarterfinal points but then fell to Simona Halep at that stage. Her Middle Eastern swing was definitely disappointing as she fell to Catherine Bellis in the second round of the Qatar Total Open and then to Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Her most recent event was the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and she made the quarterfinals there before going out to eventual champion Naomi Osaka. In the case of Ekaterina Makarova, she has had an underwhelming season as she has been too inconsistent as has taken a slew of poor losses. At the Australian Open, which is the event where she has enjoyed some of her greatest success, she took a heartbreaking loss in the first round to Irina-Camelia Begu which ended 8-6 in the third set. She failed to rebound at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy in her home nation as she fell in the second round to Katerina Siniakova. Her Middle Eastern swing was not too successful but she did fall to some quality opposition as she went out in the second round of the Qatar Total Open to Simona Halep and then the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships to Caroline Garcia. In her most recent event, which was the BNP Paribas Open, she managed to win a match before falling to Angelique Kerber in the second round. In her first round match here, she got a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 win over Timea Bacsinszky, who is attempting to make her comeback from injury. I have to give the edge in terms of confidence to Pliskova just because she has got more wins and better results over better players than Makarova so far this year.

Miami Record

This is an interesting event for Karolina Pliskova as out of the five times she has played here, she has either gone deep or lost early and that is reflected in her average result of the third round despite her best result here being a semifinal. That top result of the semifinals came last year when she got wins over her countrywoman Barbora Strycova before falling to Caroline Wozniacki. Her worst result is the first round and she has only fallen at that stage once back in 2014 when she got defeated by Peng Shuai in two sets. Ekaterina Makarova has a lot more experience in Miami having played this event ten times but her average result is the same with the third round. Her best result has been the quarterfinals and she made it to that stage in 2016 before going out to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Her worst result is also the first round and she lost at that stage on her debut in 2008 when she was just 19 years old and took a loss Michelle Larcher de Brito. I have to give the edge in this section to Pliskova because not only does she have the same average but she has experienced better results here with the semifinal.

Head to Head Record

It might be surprising to know that the lower-ranked Ekaterina Makarova actually owns the head to head record with Karolina Pliskova as not only does she lead it 3-0 but she has also never dropped a set. Their first meeting came back in 2014 in the final of the PTT Pattaya Open and fourth seed Makarova got her first win on that occasion 6-3, 7-6(9-7). This is still probably the most reliable match-up to look at because it really demonstrated how crucial holding serve is because when these two get to a tiebreaker it is really anyone’s game considering how serve-dominant these women can be. The next time they played was just under twelve months later in the third round of the Australian Open and tenth seed Makarova got the 6-4, 6-4 win over the twenty-second seed Pliskova. There are a couple of caveats to this match-up because Pliskova was still suffering from the curse that meant she could not get past a slam third round and Makarova was playing great tennis as she went on to reach the semifinals, which means there was a lot going on. There next meeting was at that same event and the same stage but a year later as the twenty-first seed Makarova upset ninth seed Pliskova 6-3, 6-2. I am very surprised that this match was not a lot tighter because Makarova was starting to fall from the top echelon of the sport and Pliskova went on to break her slam curse later this year but, regardless, there was still an impact on their play that probably won’t be a factor today. You obviously have to give the edge in this category to Makarova because of the three straight wins, all in straight sets, over Pliskova.

My Prediction

I do think that this is going to be a tight one because skill against skill, I think Karolina Pliskova would win it but there is a lot more at play mentally as she tries to get over the hill that is the mental block on the domination of Ekaterina Makarova’s record against this Czech star. I think we are going to see a really tight start as both women are motivated and serving well and despite facing break points throughout the set, they remain on serve until Pliskova just gives in that extra grit to breakthrough last minute and take the 7-5 opening set. I think it is going to be a completely different story in the second set as Pliskova might be a bit mentally exhausted from that mental push or she might be a bit nervous about claiming her first set over the Russian, who I see feeding off this and going on a tear to the 0-6 second set. For the decider, I think that Pliskova will be able to calm herself down and Makarova won’t be able to continually race through everything and Pliskova will take an early opportunity to break before carrying that through for the 7-5, 0-6, 6-3 win.

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