BRISBANE, Australia - World No.2 Karolina Pliskova became the first three-time champion at the Brisbane International after successfully defending her 2019 crown with a hard-fought 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win over Madison Keys in the final. The 27-year-old Czech has now won the season's first Premier event in three of the last four years, compiling a tour-best 17-2 record in the Queensland capital. Picking up where she left off from an outstanding 2019 campaign, Pliskova defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, Alison Riske, Naomi Osaka, and Keys to win the title, a run she says is the best of her Brisbane campaigns.
But what does it mean for her hopes of capturing her first major title next week at the Australian Open? A two-time semifinalist in Melbourne, the former No.1 hopes that a new team and a new perspective will boost her chances of a breakthrough. After splitting with Conchita Martinez over the off-season, Pliskova has brought on former WTA player Olga Savchuk and experienced ATP coach Dani Vallverdu. Having won the title in Zhengzhou last fall with Savchuk in her box, Pliskova hopes that the Ukrainian/Venezuelan duo can summon their midas touch at Melbourne Park.
"I have always big teams so it's impossible to somehow run away from tennis," Pliskova said on the WTA Insider Podcast. But I still have to maybe do some stuff which I enjoy, where I can relax and just don't really think about the match that's going to be in 40 hours. So that's gonna be my goal for this Grand Slam."
Listen to Pliskova's full interview on the WTA Insider Podcast here or click below. Subscribe to the WTA Insider Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or any podcast application of your choice.
Champions Corner: Karolina Pliskova, Queen of Brisbane https://t.co/VIEihFPxWC— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 13, 2020
WTA Insider: Karolina you're the first three-time champion in Brisbane, you've successfully defended a title for the first time in your career, and you're now the winningest player in Brisbane International history, 17-2 in your career.
Pliskova: Wow. That's a great record, actually. Since now I'm gonna come back every year, I think I have to be super confident after this record. But no, I think every year I play some good matches here, which gives me some confidence just to go into this tournament. No matter how good the players I face in the first or second rounds, I still somehow believe, here, it's my tournament, so I think I can really beat anybody here.
WTA Insider: This year had one of the toughest draws in the tournament's history, with six of the Top 10. You opened against Ajla Tomljanovic, played the match of the year so far against Naomi Osaka, where you saved match point to win, and then beating Madison Keys in the final. Of your titles in 2017, 2019, and now, which was the toughest?
Pliskova: This year, because compared to last year, seeing as I beat so many better players this year. That doesn't mean last year was easy. It was not, because I was losing at some points too. But I think just always when you play to a top player, it means that you have to still bring the level a little bit up, which I did.
I think although I don't feel I played perfect maybe some points or games yes, but not a full tournament. Especially the beginning, I was maybe a little bit struggling because it was the first match after a while. So I was really nervous to start with Ajla. But then I think I somehow kept going. Of course the best match was with Naomi. With her you always have to bring the level up because she's really going for it and I have had some great matches always against her.
And today, of course, it was not the best match. I think maybe both of us were are a little bit nervous and the game was not maybe super to watch, but it's how it is, especially with her. I think she can really hit the ball very fast and really anywhere. So she can miss, she can, kill you, anything can happen against her. So it was a little bit tricky.
Just pleased and proud that I somehow find a way to fight through because I was not feeling, even physically, I was more tired today, didn't have much time to rest in between because I was playing full four days. So it was a tough week but a lot of tennis for me, but a lot of positive things too.
WTA Insider: Your partnership with Olga Savchuk has been very successful. She was in your box in Zhengzhou where you won the title. Is it true that you're undefeated together?
Pliskova: Yes, it's true. So there is something about Olga for sure. And also now, Dani. They are undefeated so far. But let's see. I think tough times will come in a couple of days, so let's see.
WTA Insider: She had some great pep talks with you this week. Today when you were tired, she encouraged you to give it your all for the next 15-20 minutes. It seemed like you automatically refocused.
Pliskova: I felt the match was a little bit strange because there was not many rallies, so there was not really a point where I would you know, sometimes I can scream, but today was really flat. I think from both of us a little bit. And a lot of mistakes and not really any rallies where I could really catch myself on.
So I was a little bit flat. For sure they saw. So she had to tell me and I was like, okay, for sure she's right, because they see and I felt it a little bit, too. As I said, a little tired, a little maybe me nervous because it's the last match. You want to win and I wanted to defend. So it was a lot of things in the game, but I think maybe on that that third set I think I found myself and I was fighting like with Naomi.
It doesn't have to be always that you play great tennis, but it's about more the fight and the attitude, which they said and I know it was not great for two sets.
WTA Insider: You've had a history where you have won big titles before major events. You won Cincinnati and made the US Open final. You've won Eastbourne going into Wimbledon, you've won Rome going into Roland Garros. What is the challenge of having a successful week while not being too confident and raising expectations.
Pliskova: I think actually it's not perfect to start this way, because it happened to me a lot of times. For the opponents I think is like, okay, she's playing great, it's going to be tough and then they kind of play free. I think it just adds a little bit more pressure on me. But of course, I want to win and I want to have matches, especially in the beginning of the year. Something different is when you're in the middle of the season.
But right now every match I was happy about because I was not planning to go to Adelaide. So just to play one match I think would not be really enough. But of course, it's some kind of pressure that I won here. And now everybody is going to expect that I win there or at least they make finals something. That's basically happening like before every Grand Slam, so maybe I a change my tactics (laughs).
But no, I mean, it's still you want to win tournaments, but I'm not sure it's a smart move (laughs).
WTA Insider: You were one of the firsts players to arrive in Brisbane, you've been here for nearly two weeks. What have you been doing to kill your time?
Pliskova: The first four or five days, I don't really count because we were half-dead, especially with the jet lag and just trying to somehow deal with the conditions here, humidity and everything. So I didn't really do much where there was a chance to do something. But then I played doubles here and there. I still had two sessions of practice every day because it was still like a plan to do some small preparation here. And then I kept playing four days in a row. So I actually didn't do much. I went for ice cream here and there. And we had some nice dinners on the riverside. But that's it.
WTA Insider: We spoke to Dani Vallverdu earlier and he said one of the goals for the Australian Open was to work with you on how to deal with the rhythm of a Slam. How different is that for you and what do you think you'll do different in Melbourne?
Pliskova: Well, right now, I think it's not really the time to do some different preparation, but it's just we're going to have a couple days before the tournament. But I think actually, I would appreciate some days off in between these matches that I had because there were quite heavy. But sometimes if you have easy matches, I would, of course, love to play the other day, because if you have energy, then why not? But I still have to somehow deal with this stuff and just to get used to it.
I think this is my biggest problem because it just can go for two weeks the tournament. And with these days off it's just too long and my brain is still going and still thinking. So I think I need to really change that a bit. Not really the way how I play, but maybe the way how I prepare for the matches and what I do in the day off. Just to switch off a little bit the brain from tennis. Thinking about tennis two weeks in a row nonstop, even during the night, it's too much.
WTA Insider: Is it really a matter of just figuring out ways to not think during a Slam?
Pliskova: I have always big teams so it's impossible to somehow run away from tennis. But I still have to maybe do some stuff which I enjoy, where I can relax and just don't really think about the match that's going to be in 40 hours. So that's gonna be my goal for this Grand Slam.
WTA Insider: It must be difficult though, because the stakes are so high at Slams. You don't want to get distracted.
Pliskova: Exactly. Because it's like not really a day off. So you still have to practice and you cannot really do stuff that you want to do because you still have to be kind of fresh and ready for the next day. So you cannot really go beach on the sun or you can't really go shopping five hours, which I would normally go, because I would be tired after that. So you need to still take care a little bit what you do.
But I think for sure there are gonna be some stuff which I can do. I can read more for sure. My plan will be not to follow tennis that much because I'm a freak (laughs). So there is some stuff which I can do different and better.