Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova live streaming, preview and tips: Halep faces first real test of her Madrid Open title defense against sixth seed Pliskova in quarterfinals

Hannah Wilks in WTA 9 May 2018
  • World no. 1 Simona Halep takes on sixth seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open
  • Halep vs Pliskova Mutua Madrid Open tennis is live from Madrid on Thursday at 2pm local/1pm BST
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Madrid at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 
Simona Halep (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Winning streaks collide as world no. 1 Simona Halep, now on a 15-match winning streak at the Mutua Madrid Open, takes on sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, who has now won eight straight matches on clay, for a place in the semifinals.

Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova Mutua Madrid Open tennis is streamed live from Madrid on Thursday at 2pm local/1pm BST (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify). Watch and bet on tennis live from Madrid at bet365 > live streaming > tennis

Karolina Pliskova is on formidable form – but she’s on the wrong side of a lopsided head-to-head against Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinal opponent Simona Halep: Can the Czech find a way to get just her second win over Halep and reach the semifinals?

Pliskova, a semifinalist at the French Open in 2017, is seemingly bolstering her credentials as a potential Roland Garros champion in 2018 with every match she plays at the moment. After a solid enough but underwhelming performance on hard courts through the first quarter of the season – she made quarterfinals at five of the six events she played to start 2018, but only reached one semifinal – Pliskova served notice (pun intended) that she was going to be a force on clay with a brilliant performance against Angelique Kerber in Fed Cup before going on to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, beating Kiki Bertens, Jelena Ostapenko and Coco Vandeweghe. And although the outdoor, high-altitude conditions in Madrid are very different, Pliskova’s winning streak has survived and lengthened: She routined Elena Vesnina, survived a second-set meltdown and a gripping, high-quality third set against Victoria Azarenka and managed to get her first ever victory over Sloane Stephens in the third round, beating the US Open and Miami champion 6-2, 6-3 to make the quarterfinals in Madrid for the first time.

Despite trailing by an early break, Pliskova was utterly in charge for 90% of the match in a way that took me (and seemingly Stephens) aback. It wasn’t the best performance from Stephens – she was a bit passive, a bit error-strewn – but frankly there wasn’t a lot she could do against a Pliskova who was serving at 78%, and delivering those serves with a frightening blend of power and precision. The Czech simply effortlessly dominated, and wrapped up her eighth straight win in short order. 

Pliskova is now just one win away from her third semifinal of 2018, and from equaling the second-longest winning streak of her career (nine straight matches won to win the Brisbane International and make the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2017). And she looks like she has plenty left in reserve.

The problem for Pliskova is that her next opponent is world no. 1 Simona Halep. And that’s a problem in a multitude of ways.

Karolina Pliskova  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
The first is that Halep plays some of her absolute best tennis in Madrid, where she has made the final on three of her last four appearances, winning the title in 2016 and 2017 – meaning that she’s on a winning streak at the Caja Magica which has now been extended to 15 matches. 

The second is that Halep, after struggling with injury and suffering an early defeat to Vandeweghe in Stuttgart, is once more playing excellent tennis in Madrid. The world no. 1 – whose hold on the top spot is now secure for another week, following Caroline Wozniacki’s defeat to Kiki Bertens, although both Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza will have the opportunity to bid for it in Rome – has dropped just nine games through the first three rounds in Madrid, and she’s been up against dangerous opponents: Ekaterina Makarova (who got just one game), Elise Mertens (who was ill, but still came in full of form and confidence) and Kristyna Pliskova, the left-handed twin of the better-known Karolina, who had won five matches to qualify for the main draw and reach the third round and threw all her considerable artillery at Halep, who subdued her 6-1, 6-4. 

‘In the second set, she started to play really well. I think she served much better and I couldn't do much with the return,’ Halep said afterwards. ‘I served well, too. I feel like it was a very good match, the hardest here. She improved a lot since last year, we played together here, and she was different player. 
‘I'm really happy I could finish that second set. It's always tough to play against the [Pliskova] sisters. I always said that, because they have a strong serve. They can hit the ball very strong, so it's a very good win for me.’

The third way in which facing Halep in the quarterfinals in Madrid is a serious problem for Pliskova (Karolina, that is) is the fact that historically, this match-up has been an absolute nightmare for the Czech. Just one of their seven previous matches has gone Pliskova’s way – a Fed Cup clash in 2016 which Pliskova won in three sets – and Halep has won the last three, including the French Open semifinals in 2017 and the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2018. 

‘Even in practice, I feel she just likes my game,’ Pliskova said after that Australian Open quarterfinal. 

What’s been notable in previous meetings is how easily and completely Halep has neutralized the Pliskova serve, reading it beautifully and having little trouble getting returns in play. Without that, even if Pliskova is playing brilliantly off the ground, Halep can absorb the Czech’s power and use it against her, getting her opponent on the move – and once Pliskova is on the run, the point should be Halep’s for the taking. 

Against that has to be measured the fact that Pliskova has beaten Halep before, and that their French Open meeting – their only encounter on clay – was a close one, the only time in their last three matches that Pliskova has managed to take a set. But that might work against Pliskova. She said after their Roland Garros match that she felt she would have beaten 99% of players with her level of play on that day – and the fact that she still fell short to Halep might have built up to the Romanian in her mind as someone she simply can’t beat no matter how well she plays.
Pliskova has been playing great tennis recently and she was unplayably brilliant against Stephens, and at times against Azarenka. Halep, meanwhile, hasn’t really been tested and can have these lapses of energy and belief. If the Czech is going to claw one back in the head-to-head it seems like this would be a good time to do it – but that’s an extremely big ‘if’.

Halep vs Pliskova Madrid Open tennis is live from Madrid on Thursday at 2pm local/1pm BST. Watch and bet on the match live at bet365 > live streaming > tennis > Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 

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Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova live streaming, preview and tips: Halep faces first real test of her Madrid Open title defense against sixth seed Pliskova in quarterfinals

Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova live streaming, preview and tips for the Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinal match on Thursday 9 May 2018: Pliskova has won just one of seven previous matches with Halep – can she serve her way to another rare win? We preview the match and show you how you can watch the match live and bet in-play.

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