'Chilled' CoCo seeks Pliskova revenge in Stuttgart final

by Scott WILLIAMS
CoCo Vandeweghe serves up defeat for Caroline Garcia to book first ever clay court final appearance

CoCo Vandeweghe will be out for clay-court revenge when she faces Karolina Pliskova on Sunday for the Stuttgart Grand Prix title.

The American has risen to the occasion this week on her least-preferred surface, reaching her first clay final by seeing off France's Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-2 in Saturday's semi-finals.

Fifth seed Pliskova, who defeated Vandeweghe in the Stuttgart second round a year ago, booked her spot with an identical scoreline win over Estonia's Anett Kontaveit in 65 minutes.

Vandeweghe stands 3-2 in her head-to-head series with Pliskova, but is still bruised by her loss to the slender Czech in the German city 12 months ago.

"She kicked my ass here last year," the American said. "Hopefully this year will be different.

"I beat her at the US Open last year, but that's a completely different surface."

Pliskova, who didn't face a break point on Saturday, admitted serve will be crucial on Sunday with both women possessing two of the biggest games on the tour.

"I will need to play well and serve well, those are the keys to the match," said Pliskova. "I will have to get as many balls back as possible."

While Pliskova owns a clay title from three years ago, everything is new to hardcourt-bred Californian Vandeweghe.

The last American to reach a final in Germany's automotive capital was Lindsay Davenport in 2005.

The 16th-ranked Vandeweghe has proved a revelation this week on a surface that she has never shone on before, seeing off world number one Simona Halep in the quarter-finals.

"I'm playing relaxed, chill," the 26-year-old with a pair of Dutch grass-court titles on her WTA curriculum vitae said.

"It's like I'm on the beach in California. I wouldn't say that I don't care, but I'm not taking the matches deadly seriously.

"I'm one step closer to the title (and a flame-red Porsche 718 Boxster which has been on display by the court all week). I'm excited to be in the final."

Vandeweghe said that she has turned her mental attitude around since losing her opening match in Miami, thanks to reflection during a week in the Bahamas.

"I needed to re-evaluate where the first part of the season had gone. I then went home to California and spoke to (coach) Pat (Cash) on the phone.

"I had to get over just the general unhappiness after Miami," said the player who beat US Open winner Sloane Stephens and defending champion Laura Siegemund, in addition to Halep, this week.

Vandeweghe, whose surname is of Belgian origin, thrilled locals by revealing that her maternal grandmother once lived in the nearby town of Pforzheim, 50 kilometres northwest of Stuttgart, giving her a local connection.

CoCo Vandeweghe serves up defeat for Caroline Garcia to book first ever clay court final appearance