WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen | Karolina Pliskova roared into her first Brisbane final, showing off a high level to defeat Elina Svitolina in straight sets.
WTA Staff
January 15, 2017

BRISBANE, Australia - Nine of the tour's Top 10 were in action in Week 1. Only one made it to the final day. World No.6 Karolina Pliskova booked her spot in her 17th tour final on Friday night, cruising past Elina Svitolina to win 6-2, 6-4 at the Brisbane International. Pliskova will face No.41 Alize Cornet in Saturday's final, as the 24-year-old Czech aims for her 7th tour title, which would move her back up to No.5 in next week's rankings.

It's been all business for Pliskova in Brisbane, where she was tested just once by the slicing-and-dicing Roberta Vinci in the quarterfinals. The Italian was able to win a set, but Pliskova's clean hitting and big serving proved unrelenting and she pocketed the win in three sets. Her wins over Yulia Putintseva, Asia Muhammad, and Svitolina were drama-free and dominant; and if she gets through Cornet on Saturday there's no doubt she will head into the Australian Open as a dark horse for the title, which she won as a junior.

Pliskova easily neutralized Svitolina in the semifinal. The Ukrainian was coming off a heady three-set win over World No.1 Angelique Kerber and noticably flat. Pliskova smartly avoided getting dragged into protracted rallies by closing the net early in the rallies.

"She can play a lot of shots from the baseline and she can run there half day, and that's what I don't want to do," Pliskova said. "So my plan was just to play aggressive, and when I had the first chance, just to move close to the net and maybe close it on the net or with volleys or something, so just to be pushing not with the shots but with my body, as well.

"So that's what I think was working today. And same thing for yesterday. Just have to say Vinci gave me good lessons yesterday," she said with a smile.

Pliskova's vaunted serve has been firing well all week. The tour's ace leader in 2016, the Czech won a whopping 96% of her first serve points against Svitolina. It was a complete performance from the Czech and she'll face a similar, though craftier opponent in Cornet next. Pliskova says physically she already feels in mid-season form.

"I don't feel tired at all, because my season finished pretty late, so I didn't have that big off-season as some girls," she said. "So I just had few or two weeks off and then three weeks practicing, which is not that long since my last match in Fed Cup.

"So I feel like normally that I would be in the half season, like everything is going well, my body is fine. Till yesterday, I didn't have any hard matches, actually. I had few good days before the tournament when I was practicing in the heat, so I feel ready and excited to continue this journey which started here."

 

 

To her credit, Pliskova has a clear grasp of her game and what she can and, as of now, can't do. Earlier in the week she said she did not think she had a style of game that would be impacted too much by a coach. It's a bold statement but not necessarily a wrong one.

Pliskova raised eye-brows over the off-season when she announced her split from Jiri Vanek and hired Petra Kvitova's former coach David Kotyza. Both parties emphasize that their partnership is in the very early stages, but so far Pliskova is liking what she's hearing from the veteran coach. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Kotyza knows the ins and outs of having a powerful player whose movement can be exploited.

"I think we are just having fun even off the court, even on the court when we are practicing," Pliskova said. "I think he's telling me good stuff, so I agree with all the things what he's saying to me. I think he can just improve my game and improve my movement. So we are trying to work on those things. So far, good."

 

 

Impeccably placid on court, Pliskova has a well-earned reputation for being a cool customer. In fact, if you were to pick a player in the Top 10 to play a hand of poker for you, the Czech would be the easy pick.

But her countenance belies a fire and intensity that began to make its way to the surface at the US Open, one she may have begun to tap into during her recent Fed Cup campaigns. Earlier in the week, Kotyza told WTA Insider that he believed there was a champion sleeping within his new charge. "We just have to find a way to wake it up."

"It's not that I don't have any emotions," Pliskova said. "It's not like often, but it's still there. I think it's improving, because when I'm getting excited I'm playing better tennis.

"But I get angry with myself. I'm trying not to show it that much, because it's obviously not helping to me and it's helping the opponent. So I'm just trying not to show it. I'm getting more angry in the practice, actually, when I miss few times in a row. I just smash my racquet a few times.

"The good emotions I want to show. I think I play better tennis when I'm in it, into the match."

Pliskova hasn't had to tap into an extra level this week in Brisbane. She has not been at her top level but she has not needed to be. That's the sign of a major contender, that she can move through a tournament at a solid level, knowing there are extra gears and room for elevation.