ROME (AFP) – Former world number one Karolina Pliskova set up a rematch with Greece s Maria Sakkari at the Italian Open on Friday, a year after the Czech player smashed the umpire s chair in a temper tantrum after losing to the Greek.
Pliskova and Sakkari last met in the second round at the Foro Italico when the Czech, furious at a line call, smashed a hole in the umpire s chair after losing in three sets.
Pliskova, the fourth seed, beat Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-2 on Friday and plays 39th-ranked Sakkari, who ousted France s Kristina Mladenovic 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, for a place in the final.
“With Sakkari I didn t play since last year, so I think everybody is going to be waiting for this match — even me,” said the 27-year-old Pliskova, who was fined by the WTA for her outburst.
“It was I think (at a) couple (of) tournaments already close to happening, the rematch after this. But she always lost before.”
“I think she was scared to face me,” she joked.
Since then, Sakkari has won her first WTA title on clay in Morocco last month.
“It was not a nice memory I have,” said the player from Athens. “But since then, I think we have both forgot about it.
“We both moved on. I m sure it s going to be a very, very tough match. She s going to be up for it.
“Of course, we both want to be in the final. I m just looking forward for the match.”
Pliskova is the top seed left in the final tournament before the French Open after the top three seeds, Naomi Osaka, Roland Garros champion Simona Halep, and Petra Kvitova, all pulled out injured.
No Czech woman has won the Rome tournament since Regina Marsikova in 1978, with former French Open champion Hana Mandlikova the last finalist back in 1982.
“There is nobody really like Rafa (Nadal) in the girls,” said Pliskova.
“There s Simona (Halep), she s the best the way she moves on the clay.
“I think everybody right now is beatable.”
Pliskova has credited four-time Italian Open winner Conchita Martinez, now her coach, for improving her clay form.
“I have Conchita. She won (in Rome) four times, so that s quite (a lot of) motivation for me,” said Pliskova of the Spanish former Wimbledon champion.
“She tries to teach me things that are a little bit different.
“Rome for me was terrible so far in last couple years. Especially last year.”
Madrid Open champion and sixth seed Kiki Bertens advanced after Osaka withdrew injured.
She next plays Britain s Johanna Konta, who battled past Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to celebrate her 28th birthday in style.