BRISBANE, Australia - No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova authored a thrilling comeback to claim her second Brisbane International title on Sunday, rallying from a 6-4, 5-3 deficit to defeat Lesia Tsurenko, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
The former World No.1 was two points away from defeat in the second set, but rallied on serve at deuce when trailing 6-4, 5-3, and won 14 straight points en route to capping a thrilling second set comeback.
"I think this was a very important match. I had similar one in the first round which I was losing set and break, and of course, when you're able to turn these matches around, it gives you some extra and different confidence." Pliskova said.
"II think I just dug deep today, and that's important. I think she played great. It was not much what she did wrong - only a little bit in the end of the second set mistakes, but I think I improved my game, too, so it was on both sides a little bit. She got down, I got better."
That's the @BrisbaneTennis championship!@KaPliskova takes it, coming through 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 against Tsurenko!
And the first thing she does after hugging coach @rennaestubbs is check on Tsurenko, who rolled her ankle in the third set 😍#BrisbaneTennis pic.twitter.com/fPECGTz6wM
— WTA (@WTA) January 6, 2019
The run of games for Pliskova reached five before a key moment early in the decider, when the Ukrainian rolled her ankle in the second game of the final set and required a mid-game medical timeout before continuing.
From there, the Czech pulled away, as her streak of games extended to eight in a row before Tsurenko put one more on the board, but the Ukrainian never managed to pull even from there.
Despite behind out-served and out-hit off the ground for much of the match, Pliskova showed her mettle in the decider: after striking just six winners and one ace over the first two sets, the Czech ended the match with increased aggression, and dropped just two points behind her first serve in the final set.
"My feeling was that I was playing too slow the set and a half. I just couldn't get my rhythm into it, and I just was not feeling great," Pliskova added. "She was so good and so solid, you know, making a lot of pressure from her backhand on my side.
"After that, I just tried to step in a little bit more just to go more through her forehand, just to be more aggressive, even though I was not just going for winners because I didn't feel like it's my time to go for winners.
"In the third set, I just felt somehow in the beginning super confident because I did so many points in a row, and I didn't want to really slow down. I just wanted to make her work for the points."
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) January 6, 2019
For Tsurenko, the loss is her first in a WTA singles final in five attempts, but the Ukrainian will nonetheless rise to a career-high World No.24 thanks to reaching the final.
"I think we had the great fight until 5-4, and then suddenly, I don't know, maybe she raised her level so much that I was not ready for that. It's going to be a big lesson for me, and I'm trying to stay positive," Tsurenko said in defeat.
"This is just the first Premier final for me, so hopefully next one will be more successful. I almost did it. I will have to work hard, and for sure I have to work a little bit more on my serve and on my attacking game because I feel that I can get a lot of advantage with that, and of course, on my mental part of my game, because next time when I will be in a situation like this, I would like to win."
— WTA (@WTA) January 6, 2019
Pliskova joins Serena Williams in becoming the only player to win two titles in Brisbane since its elevation to Premier level edition in 2012, as Victoria Azarenka is also a two-time champion (2009, 2016).
"I never actually won any titles twice yet. Every time I won...I'm choosing different tournaments, so finally I won in one place two times," Pliskova said.
"I've been here on this court. I played the final. And on many other courts. So, of course, you need a little bit more of this, too."
In addition, the win also assures her return to Czech No.1 status, as she once again supplants Petra Kvitova as top-ranked player from their nation.