DUBAI, UAE - World No.3 Karolina Pliskova became the first woman to win two titles in 2017 after a gritty title run at the Qatar Total Open. The 24-year-old scored back-to-back wins over Dominika Cibulkova and Caroline Wozniacki to take home the trophy, her first career-wins over either player.
By winning her second Premier title of the season, Pliskova has now won 15 of 16 matches in 2017 (including Fed Cup) and is projected to rise to No.2 on the Road To Singapore leaderboard on Monday, moving ahead of Australian Open finalist Venus Williams.
Basking in the glow of both her victory and the very welcome sunshine at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Pliskova sat down with WTA Insider to debrief her outstanding start to the season.
Yes, even Karolina is surprised.
Q: You won the title just 14 hours ago and now you're in Dubai. That's a quick turnaround.
Pliskova: Well definitely better weather here. I just came an hour ago from the airport but the weather has been amazing compared to Doha. There it was really cold and rainy the whole week, so enjoying so far Dubai and enjoying my win from last night.
Q: How surprised were you to win the title in Doha, especially after playing Fed Cup the weekend before and having to endure all the rain delays during the week?
Pliskova: A little bit surprised because after Fed Cup I always felt a little bit tired; there are different emotions there and it's always tough. Especially when you play at home, there's some pressure. So I just felt a little bit tired. Especially with the week that was there, tough conditions with a lot of the rain there, we were just waiting all day at the club. It was a really tough week. But I was just happy that it was worth the wait for my matches and I could get the trophy.
Q: Did you approach Doha differently given how tired you were at the start of the tournament?
Pliskova: The first two rounds are always tough for every player so I was just happy that I got through those. Then I felt like my game was improving, even my feelings, mentally and physically, I was feeling my best in the final, actually.
Pliskova: Yeah. It was not easy because I played four matches in three days but I think I managed it pretty well. The first few days off was good for me after the Fed Cup. I didn't practice much, it was outside and Fed Cup was indoors so it was different conditions. But the first two matches gave me a lot of confidence and I was improving match to match.
Q: Last week you gave an interview with Sport360 where you said that you felt like you were playing worse with each round at the Australian Open. But you still made the quarterfinals. Is that really how you felt?
Pliskova: I was thinking, since I was winning Brisbane and then making the quarters, I felt like my game was still worse and worse and the players were not as good a level. It's always tough playing against those players because you are constantly on yourself, trying to play the best tennis even if they are not playing the best tennis, which is always tough especially for me.
So right now I had two good matches at Fed Cup, one against Garbiñe Muguruza, and now three against Caroline Garcia, Wozniacki, and Domi, who I didn't beat in the past. I need those kind of matches at least once in a month, to have that and just play good matches against.
WTA Insider: So even if you're getting wins you need those tests against the top players?
Pliskova: Yeah definitely, because then you see where your level is and you can play more aggressively because you know their level is really high and if you don't play good tennis you don't have any chance to beat them. Sometimes I have the feeling that I'm not playing the best level against the players behind me. So I need to improve this.
WTA Insider: 15-1 on the season. Do you remember ever playing this consistently over a stretch of time?
Pliskova: Well not really, and especially not in the beginning of the year. It's always tough after the off-season to get in a good shape at the tournaments and get back on track. I think it's the best that I've ever had and the longest streak of winning matches that I had.
WTA Insider: Does that feel weird? Do you feel any different winning all these matches?
Pliskova: Well not really because I don't feel like I lost just once! I feel like I lost more times but it didn't happen and I got two trophies. Yeah, it's an amazing start.
WTA Insider: Well now you're in Dubai. How are you feeling as the tournament is set to begin?
Pliskova: I feel good, actually. I got here today so today is my day off so I just want to look around. My sister is playing tonight so I'm going to watch a little bit of her match, have a good dinner, and celebrate. My coach came here. He wasn't in Doha so we're going to talk a little bit about my matches. So everything about is just today about having off, off mentally as well, and tomorrow I'll get back to practice and get ready for my Tuesday start.
Hear more from Pliskova in the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast:
All photos courtesy of Getty Images.