GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Karolina Pliskova hates drama. She really hates it. So the World No.4 was in a tough spot after her three-set win over Barbora Krejcikova in the final round of group play at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara.

Despite posting a 2-1 record with wins over Garbiñe Muguruza and Krejcikova, Pliskova's destiny was not in her own hands.

"I just found it super positive that although I was really not like feeling at all amazing, not in the practice, which is of course tough if you playing all week bad in practice, then just somehow feel amazing in the matches," Pliskova said, reflecting on her week in Guadalajara. 

"It's difficult, but I thought I really gave myself a chance with my kind of positive attitude in the matches to get two wins, which many times would be enough to make it to the semis. Maybe it's going to be enough. We don't know."

It wasn't enough. Pliskova needed group winner Anett Kontaveit to beat Garbiñe Muguruza in the final match of the Teotihuacán group to qualify, but the inspired Spaniard had other ideas. Muguruza snapped the Kontaveit's 12-match winning streak with a 6-4, 6-4 win to book her spot in the semifinals and leave Pliskova on the outside looking in. 

But if there is anyone on tour who is built to move on quickly from the disappointment of failing to qualify for her fourth straight WTA Finals semifinal, it's Pliskova. This is a player who quickly shrugged off a 6-0, 6-0 loss in the Rome final this spring and who could laugh about her struggles against Jessica Pegula all season. She had the pitch-perfect response to the first question of her press conference after losing 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 to Ashleigh Barty in her first Wimbledon final. 

Q. It must have been pretty tough for you at the start of the match when you lost the opening 14 points.


As Pliskova joked later in that same press conference, she knows what it feels like to come up short. "I know how to lose, believe me," she said, laughing. "I'm so good in that."

Cynics might see the former No.1's nonchalance as a red flag in a professional athlete. But there's a strong argument that behind her serve and forehand, the 29-year-old Czech's even-keeled attitude is the foundation for her successful career. 

WTA Insider spoke to Pliskova before the WTA Finals in Guadalajara to look back on her 2021 season, one that saw her set aside early disappointment and concern to reestablish herself at the top of the game. 

Photo by WTA/Jimmie48

WTA Insider: How do you explain how even-keeled you are about your career? Is it just in you or did you used to take losses and disappointments much harder?

Pliskova: I think I did in the beginning when we played juniors a bit. I had a few, let's say, small waves. But since I started to play the big tennis, maybe since I did the first title, I feel like I'm quite stable. 

I think it's from the way we were raised. We never really were like, "OK, we won a tournament and now I feel like I'm the king of the world," you know? I never felt that way. And also the other way, which is super important, even more so than that, there are many more defeats than tournaments you win. 

How many titles have I won? Sixteen. How many times I lost? Like a million times. So I don't really go into a depression. Maybe that day is not the best day, but I am able to just put it behind and just move on. 

That's how I go through life. Some moments are tougher, of course, sometimes you're tired, you don't have a mood. It's still tennis and it's still a tennis match, so I'm not dealing with something more important than that. I just try to take it that way, not to make huge drama. I don't like drama.  

"I know so many people and they're like, I hate to lose. I'm like, everybody hates to lose. I don't know one person who likes to lose so why do we even say this?"

- Karolina Pliskova

WTA Insider: You joked at Wimbledon that you're very familiar with losing. What's the key to handling losses?

Pliskova: I know so many people and they're like, I hate to lose. I'm like, everybody hates to lose. I don't know one person who likes to lose so why do we even say this? It's like Michal, my husband, he gets so upset and he says, you know I hate to lose, that's my personality. But I'm like, no, but that's the personality of everybody. Nobody likes to lose! 

You just need to learn and I think this takes time, and maybe it has to be a bit in you. It takes patience and to see the good things always, which is of course not easy. 

Just don't make drama. Really. I don't like drama at all. Hysterical people, this is just so not me. But of course, you need to learn that. It's not like I would be always handling everything well. 

Now I take it even much better because I feel like I achieved so much. It's not like I need to show to somebody something. I just think, OK, whatever, I lost. But even if I never win anything, I still had an amazing career, you know? 

So now I'm more relaxed about it but I think this is the reason. Maybe the younger players are more panicked. What if I never win? But you have to learn that. 

Photo by WTA/Jimmie48

WTA Insider: Speaking of not panicking, you teamed up with Sascha Bajin during the offseason and the results did not come immediately for you. You've had instances of switching coaches, sometimes your decision, sometimes not, but I'm curious if you were ever concerned that the partnership wasn't working?

Pliskova: To be honest, I'll start with this: in the past, I would never change a coach because of my bad results. I would change if I don't feel well about something or there is something off court that is not working. 

But with Sascha that never really happened. Of course, there was the thing, which is still the most important, which is the results, because everybody wants the results. That just didn't somehow happen in the beginning of the year. But I thought we were actually doing quite good things and practicing well like all the other years. I started to practice even more, more fitness, more of everything because he's a hard worker. He wants to work like 10 hours per day. 

Even happier that I stayed with him and it was never on my mind to really change only because of those results. I really had that belief that eventually it's going to work out. And it did, and it actually worked out maybe better than the years before, because again, to be in the final of a Grand Slam, which didn't happen for a couple of years, is still better than to win some small tournaments. 

Just happy that we stayed on what was the plan and didn't really change. And I have to say, he didn't panic at all. I was maybe feeling, OK I'm still Top 10, but I'm barely winning anything. 

And also like, it's not my usual year. I always started with winning Brisbane. Like, I was like, OK, what's going on [laughs]? There was no Brisbane. That was the problem. 

We just found a way how to win matches again and it kind of kept going. 

"His personality and the way he is, it helped me to go through the first half of the year, which was really tough."

- Pliskova on Sascha Bajin

WTA Insider: Are there things you two were working on a lot early that you're seeing in your game now?

Pliskova: I feel like no matter the age I have, I'm able to learn and listen. It's not like I would think, OK, now I know everything. It's not like that at all. Still, I want to improve. He believes that I can improve in some things, which is important no matter the age. You want to always improve. I believe even like Federer, he still wants to improve, which is crazy. Djokovic, too. 

We put in my game more variation, just sometimes play a bit more slice or kick from the serve, a bit more different things when I was more winner, winner, winner, fast, fast fast. 

The main thing I would mention is the mental part. I think he's a really, really positive guy and I am not. That's a good balance. His personality and the way he is, it helped me to go through the first half of the year, which was really tough. I was upset, a bit down. But I never go into a depression. I don't have depression, but of course, I'm also never really flying. I'm kind of neutral. 

He helped me to go through these tough moments. And also in the match, I feel like when he's there we have a good connection and because he's positive, and even if the match starts and it's not going really well, I feel like he's there, always supporting, everything is well. That's why I started to play better. 

WTA Insider: How often do you think back on your Wimbledon run? You had just dropped out of the Top 10, it was your worst Slam results-wise, and you've always joked about your complicated relationship with the grass. 

Pliskova: I still go back to see some of the videos from there because the crowd was amazing. I mean, Princess Kate was there, Tom Cruise was cheering! Amazing two weeks, really. I was just so enjoying it and just so relaxed for some reason there. 

But actually from the first match, I started the first round and I was down 0-4, and I was like, that's it. This is a stupid tournament. I hate this tournament. I kept saying this every match. I hate this tournament. I don't like this tournament. And then maybe I was just so relaxed and didn't put pressure at all. 

If there's a tournament that you really want to win, it's like, OK, I love this tournament, I need to win. I think it adds extra pressure. But this time it was like, OK, forget Wimbledon. 

Then actually I started to like it. I changed my mind a bit about the tournament. It's not going to be my favorite tournament, maybe for the reason that everybody is saying their favorite tournament is Wimbledon. But yeah, I like it, and I enjoyed very much the atmosphere which I was having in the semifinal, final. Especially after COVID, where there were no people. It was incredible.