Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic has an extra incentive to win at least one more match to reach the Miami Open semifinal this year.
The 14th-seeded Pliskova, who moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Russian wild-card recipient Daria Garvilova on Monday, expects to have a special guest courtside. Florida Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr told Pliskova he would come see her play.
“I just went to see the ice hockey since I got here, which is great,” Pliskova said. “In Czech, hockey is pretty popular, and we have Jaromir Jagr, who is Czech and one of the best players ever. It was my first time meeting him, live. He said if I’m going to be in the semifinals, he’s going to come and watch, so I have one more match to go.”
Pliskova, whose twin sister, Kristyna, also plays professionally, is one of the hottest players on the WTA tour this season.
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The first six weeks of the year Pliskova played on four continents — Australia, North America, Europe and Asia. She reached the Sydney final in Australia, then in her Fed Cup debut led the defending champion Czech Republic to a first-round win over Canada in Quebec City. She then made the semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium, and the final in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Pliskova currently leads the tour with 196 aces served in 30 matches this year. Serena Williams is next on the aces-served list with 147 in 16 matches played.
“My serve is the best shot that I have, so it is quite important,” Pliskova said. “Even in some matches, if my first serve isn’t working, my second serve is quite good. But Serena’s serve is still the best.”
Pliskova plays ninth-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany in the quarterfinals.
The Miami Open marks the one year anniversary of fifth-seeded Milos Raonic adding a personal fashion statement of a sleeve to his right forearm when playing a match.
The original material sleeve, which has graduated to a compression sleeve, had a specific purpose. Last year, Raonic had an allergic reaction to a massage cream and was told to protect the rash on his arm from the sun.
Wearing the sleeve quickly became a habit.
“It’s a comfort thing at this point,” said Raonic, after battling Frenchman Jeremy Chardy before closing out a 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7-3) victory in the fourth round. “It’s been a year, and I don’t think I have skipped playing a match with it.”
When asked if it’s become something of a superstition to have the sleeve on for matches — he doesn’t wear it during practices — he insists it isn’t.
“No, because I think I’d be fine — if somebody stole my sleeve I wouldn’t be panicking,” Raonic said.
The sleeve isn’t Raonic’s only unique signature style on the court.
The Canadian always looks as if he stepped out of a 1950s Brylcreem advertisement. Uncomfortable with the feeling of his hair blowing around during matches, he keeps every hair on his head in place with heavy-duty gel he imports from Australia.