British No 3 Harriet Dart missed out on her first WTA Tour final when she was beaten by Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals of the WTA 250 Transylvania Open on Saturday, while Ana Bogdan defeated Jaqueline Cristian in a Romanian home derby Last 4 match.
I've lost a few points in the rankings, so I'd like to get back into the top 30 or 20 so I can get better shots at the bigger tournaments, and we'll see from there. I've also dealt with some injuries, so the goal is always to be healthy, because once you have injuries, it's more complicated and you don't enjoy it as much. Karolina Pliskova
Pliskova, a former World No 1, is ranked 78 nowadays, but she reached her first WTA final in the last 2-and-a-half years with an emphatic 6-3 6-3 win over Dart after an hour and 23 minutes.
Dart got off to a nightmare start in their Last 4 encounter, losing her serve to love in the opening game, and the Czech threatened to run away with the first set as Pliskova earned the double break for a 4-1 lead, but the Brit made things more interesting with an immediate break back in the 6th game.
She was unable to capitalise further against Pliskova, though, who had 2 wins under her belt from their previous WTA Tour meetings coming into the match.
At 3-1 for the Czech, Dart conceded her serve again, but she responded quickly with a break back to cut the deficit down to 4-2.
Although shaky on her serve, Dart managed to hold, but Pliskova forged ahead to 5-3, and applied even more pressure on the Brit’s delivery.
Dart threw her racket on the court when Pliskova carved out her first set point, and landed the set.
Trying to cool off her frustration under a towel, Dart struggled to find a way to combat the Czech’s powerful forehand and strong service, which left her helpless at times.
Pliskova raced out to a 4-0 lead in the second before Dart earned a surprise break to love, but the 27-year-old Londoner had only delayed the inevitable as the Czech continued to play solid tennis.
By now she was in full control of the match, holding serve with a bold 40-0, and, at 5-3, although Dart went 0-30 on Pliskova’s serve, the Czech turned things around and won the game, the set, and the match.
Already guaranteed a best-ever result at the top level by reaching the semi-finals, Dart departs safe in the knowledge that she will jump back into the Top 100 of the WTA rankings on Monday.
Pliskova has yet to lose a set this week, and, in the final, she will meet the home favourite, 8th-seeded Bogdan, who will have the crowd firmly on her side.
After reaching her 17th WTA Tour final, she said: “I know how you guys can be tough if I play against Romanian girls, so let us see, but no matter what, I’ll accept you’ll cheer for Anna.
“I just want to play good tennis. There is always a chance with my game to win, and I’ve reached finals already so there is no pressure.
“I want to win the title, because I haven’t won a title for a couple of years already but also I haven’t played a final for a while so I will enjoy it.”
The last time Pliskova played a WTA final was in 2021 at the National Bank Open in Montreal, Canada, where she lost in two sets to Italian Camila Giorgi.
Not only is Pliskova hoping to land the title on Sunday, she also is looking to climb back up the rankings.
“I’ve lost a few points in the rankings, so I’d like to get back into the top 30 or 20 so I can get better shots at the bigger tournaments, and we’ll see from there,” said Pliskova. “I’ve also dealt with some injuries, so the goal is always to be healthy, because once you have injuries, it’s more complicated and you don’t enjoy it as much.
“So that’s the goal for this year. I’m ok now, but it’s also about age, at my age you can never be 100%, but I’m doing my best to be there,” Pliskova added.
Both Pliskova and Bogdan are 31-years of age, but the Romanian enters Sunday’s final at a disadvantage, having played close to 3 hours in her semi-final against her compatriot Cristian before winning, 6-3 3-6 6-4.
“It was an intense match where we both played well,” Bogdan said later. “Jaqueline is in great progress, she has all the future ahead of her.
“I’m glad that I managed to overcome some of my moods during the match and because I’m in the final here, where I wanted very much. All I want is to recover, rest and enjoy this moment that I have been waiting for four years.
“I am very happy to be here and to be back on the court tomorrow.”
Bogdan upset top-seeded Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands on Friday, in another 3 hour 28 minute marathon contest, and, on Saturday she won the all-Romanian duel in Cluj-Napoca to make her second tour-level final.
Ranked 65, Bogdan outplayed the World No 81 in 3 sets to advance after another almost 3 hour battle, splitting sets before Bogdan proved the more solid from the baseline in the decider.
She made very few mistakes as the third looked to be heading for a tiebreak, but, at 4-3, Bogdan managed the break and rode out the win.
“It’s very difficult to play with a Romanian, because we have a lot of memories together, a lot of training, it’s not easy when you play against a Romanian, but I know that when I go out on the court I have to put that aside, even though it’s not easy, and I focus on what I have to do,” Bogdan said. “But when the match is over we go back to what it was before.”
“All the matches I played here were at a very high level, I still expect it to be a very contested match, but now I want to rest, recover and come tomorrow with the same enthusiasm and the same passion with which I play every time on this court”, she added.
Later on Saturday, Dart was in action again in the doubles with her Slovakian partner, Tereza Mihalikova, and they edged past fellow Brit Olivia Nicholls & Elixane Lechmemia from France, 3-6 7-6(5) [10-4], to reach the final where they will meet the American duo of City McNally & Asia Muhammad, who beat Romanians Cristian & Andrews Mitu, 6-4 6-4, in Friday’s semi-final.