Champions Corner: Pliskova Powers To Brisbane Title With Australian Open In Sight
Published January 07, 2017 12:15
BRISBANE, Australia - Karolina Pliskova played her first main draw match at the Brisbane International looking to follow up a quietly impresisve 2014 season, one in which she reached six WTA finals - winning three titles - on the International level. She stunned former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in her first match of the year, showing off her ability to, in her own words, contend with "99% of the players on tour."
The Czech powerhouse is feeling 1% more confident after a winning week Down Under; with new coach David Kotyza at her side, Pliskova dropped just one set en route to her seventh career title, establishing herself as one of the favorites to capture her first major crown at the Australian Open.
WTA Insider caught up with Pliskova to recap her whirlwind six months, how she handles uncomfortable situations, and the pressure of being a Grand Slam contender.
Insider: Congratulations on a successful start to the season.
Pliskova: Thank you. Very excited for the win this week in Brisbane. I think I played some good matches, especially the one today was the best one of the tournament. So I won my first title this year, first tournament, so really good start.
Insider: This is your 15th final, seventh title. The experience of playing a final has to be easier now than your first one. How different do you feel on court playing finals now compared to a year ago?
Pliskova: Definitely, it's something different. It's a different match than first rounds or second rounds. You have to give everything that you have in the final because you know it's the last one. There is nothing after this match.
I was able to do it today but on the other hand you have to be aggressive, you cannot be passive. That's what I cannot do. I was playing my game. You always have to play your best tennis in the final because your opponent also won four matches. So you just have to be ready for everything. Anything is possible. So I'm excited that I won it. I lost a few finals actually, but hopefully I can change that for the future.
Insider: How do you deal with the pressure of playing a final differently now? Are you just used to the pressure or do you prepare differently?
Pliskova: I don't prepare differently. I just try to take it as a normal match, even if it's tough sometimes. I played a few finals. I won a few, I lost a few, so I know how it is when it goes both ways.
Obviously when you win it's definitely better but not always it goes like this. Also it's better when you play someone behind you in the rankings. I think I was a little bit more experienced than she was today. But it was tough.
Insider: How much confidence do you take from the fact that the players you beat this week are the type of players that might cause you problems, the players who get a lot of balls back, or like Vinci, with her slicing and dicing?
Pliskova: I think a big plus for me was I had all week the same players with the same style so I was not changing tactics, just a little bit. I was still playing my aggressive game.
I think the whole week I was playing solid from the baseline. I was still going for my shots but not missing much, which is important. Also, I was serving well, which is also important because when everything is going through the rallies it's tough with those players when they're not missing much.
Still the hardest match was against Vinci. She gave me a good lesson with her slices and definitely with her game. So I was prepared for the next two. Similar opponents but a little bit worse than Vinci.
Insider: People talk about your power game but you also have great touch. Can you talk about the development of your game there? When you get drawn into the middle of the court you seem to know exactly what to do.
Pliskova: Actually my coach David was saying that I'm one of the best when you get somewhere in the middle of the court because no one is playing there. Either you move forward or you stay back but I'm just staying somewhere in the middle [laughs], which I think is not good but I got used to it and I actually now know how to play the shots there. It's always a difficult shot because it's always low and you have to have good hands, which I do sometimes.
I've been improving this shot but it's definitely not what I want to play. I want to move closer [to the net] and have easier volleys. We want to improve this thing.
Insider: Have you always been comfortable at the net? Are you comfortable up there?
Pliskova: I'm not at all. It's improving. I think the doubles with Julia Goerges really helped me. I played a lot of doubles last year, even the year before, but last year we played really good. We're going to continue this year. You have to play good volleys in doubles. So I think this really helped me.
On the other hand we're still practicing with the movement and approaching and coming to the net. I think I can improve a lot, it's definitely not the best, but actually I'm doing a lot of points at the net.
Insider: You're not going to be under the radar at the Australian Open. People are going to have their eye on you. Are you ready for that?
Pliskova: Definitely. I'm excited and open to new things. I've been playing my first final at the US Open and I'm ready for the next one if it's possible. If I'm playing well like I was playing this week I think I can make the fourth round and then let's see which opponents are there. I just have to deal with everyone in th edraw. Not every player is easy for me but let's just try.
I'm not going to feel any pressure. Obviously people are going to talk that I have a good chance. I'm hearing this more often, that I'm going to win a Grand Slam this year but I don't care if it's this year or next year. I just want to try at every Grand Slam and do the best results there.
Insider: I've noticed you're much more confident in your game. Before the tournament you said you can beat 99% of the players out there when you're on and you know that. When did you realize that?
Pliskova: I always knew I had a big game so if I'm playing well I can beat the good players, the best players. But it's tough sometimes to play the best tennis on the big stages. Now I think I finally got used to it.
I'm not scared of anything, not my opponents, not myself, not the crowd, not anything. I think it just takes time with me and some experience, which I have now.
So yeah, I think it's possible to beat - now I say 100% of the players [laughs].
Hear more from Pliskova in the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast: