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Pliskova reaches the title match of the Bank of the West

 

Karolina Pliskova will be playing to win when she takes the court for Sunday's championship match of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, but if it doesn't work out, she won't be too disappointed.

Pliskova, who will make her Top 10 debut when the latest rankings are released Monday, beat American Varvara Lepchenko, 6-2, 7-5, in Saturday's first semifinal to reach her fifth final of the year.

"This couldn't be a better start to the hardcourt season," Pliskova said. "I hope I can build off this."

Pliskova meets fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in the championship match, which begins at 2 p.m.

Kerber advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in a match that lasted 55 minutes.

The 11th-ranked Pliskova was at No. 45 when she made her debut at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium last year. She lost to eventual champion Serena Williams in the second round. This year, she hopes to win her second title of the season.

"I've improved a lot mentally," Pliskova said. "My serve is solid now and I can still work on moving. I'm not losing because of my serve any more. I have found some level I could play."

Lepchenko, ranked No. 60, made a nice run in reaching the semifinal round for the second straight year. She upset top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the second round after beating a higher ranked player in her opening match.

Pliskova's serve made all the difference. She averaged 105 miles an hour, topping off at 115, on her first serves and won 81 percent of her first serve points. Lepchenko was able to keep her returns in play just 56 percent of the time.

"This is the best match I've played here so far," Pliskova said. "She was struggling with the return. I'm happy I closed it out in two sets."

Reaching the top 10 was one of Pliskova's goals this season. She's focusing her attention on the US Open and finishing among the top eight for a chance at the Tour Championships in Singapore.

Pliskova and Kerber met in the final at Birmingham about six weeks ago, with Kerber winning 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4). Pliskova beat Kerber in the semifinal in Sydney.

"I'm looking forward to it," Kerber said. "I know it will be a tough final against Karolina. She has a big serve and I must try to return very well."

Kerber had a quick turnaround from playing a late night quarterfinal Thursday and had more than enough to get past the 20th-ranked Svitolina.

"I've been playing well this week," Kerber said. "My whole game has been more aggressive. It's good to see I can translate that from the practice court to the playing court. I'm happy with my performance."

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