World No.3 Karolina Pliskova came as close to perfection as she ever has in her career this week in Eastbourne, winning her third title of the season and 14th overall by defeating reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-4 to win the Nature Valley Invitational.
Pliskova did not come close to losing a set en route to her second Eastbourne title. The big-serving Czech dropped just 19 games in 5 matches, the most dominant run to a WTA title this season. The previous best mark belonged to Kiki Bertens, who lost 32 games on her way to the St. Peterburg title in February. Pliskova's vaunted serve was broken just twice all tournament.
A relaxed and elated Pliskova spoke with WTA Insider after her big win to reflect on what went so right during her week on the English seaside, how 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez is shaping her grass game, and whether she's ready to make a charge for her first major title next week at Wimbledon, where she has yet to progress past the fourth round.
WTA Insider: Congratulations. What do you think was the key to this week in Eastbourne?
Pliskova: I think from the beginning, every match was quite perfect. I don't know why, but everything was working. My serve was working, my game was working, and it was not every day the same conditions. It was windy, it was some days more cloudy. But I think so far the best day was today and the best tennis and the best match was today.
I think the week could not be more perfect. Of course there were a couple of things which I maybe could do better or play better. But overall I think we had a great week.
WTA Insider: Do you remember having a more "perfect" week?
Pliskova: No, not really because I think every week when I won the title there was some tough moments or some difficult matches. But this week somehow it didn't come. Maybe the hardest match was actually today. But I think it's still not that hard. I didn't play any three-setters, which normally I play every match (laughs).
This was a change, which is quite helpful before Wimbledon and of course in the middle of the season. It can be a big help that I didn't play that long, all the matches. I think never had a week like this. So of course I'm pleased with it.
WTA Insider: What was the key to beating Angie today?
Pliskova: I think it was a lot about the serve, that I was able to just put some pressure on her serve and then to hold quite easily on my serve. She after maybe felt a little bit more pressure and she was maybe missing a bit more. She didn't have that many first serves.
And I think tactically I was playing perfect. Maybe a little bit more to her backhand and being careful about the forehand down the line because that's her best shot. We played so many times, so many in the finals, so we know each other pretty well. There is not really a surprise for me.
She can play incredible shots by going super low and playing in the squat, but I just have forget because she's always going to have these kind of shots. But I was more focused about myself and just went for it and it paid off.
WTA Insider: You've now won three titles on three different surfaces this year. How do you think you've been able to do that?
Pliskova: Well I think I did some good preparation and a little bit different things before every surface. Before clay we did some more, before grass we changed a little bit, but with me it's more about just feeling good and feeling that I can have fun on the court and just enjoying that a bit more myself.
I was really enjoying this week. And if I have a lot of matches, which I have this year, but on the specific surface, I can just play well and I'm getting more and more confident. So I think it's great. I think I never really had three titles one each surface, I'm not sure. But it's great. I'm feeling great and confident. Of course Wimbledon starts very soon for me, but I think this is a good start.
WTA Insider: What will you take from this week into Wimbledon?
Pliskova: I think how aggressive I played all the week. No matter which opponents I have, and I think I had quite tough opponents, but I just made it not look quite dangerous. I was serving well and just trusting myself, and not really waiting for them to miss. I just went for it.
In the final I went for a couple of maybe too risky shots. I was still missing a lot, but I was able to put big pressure and then, in the end, it always paid off. I want to continue in Wimby.
WTA Insider: Do you have to play differently on grass than on clay?
Pliskova: Maybe yes, because of course on clay you need to be more patient and maybe you're not going to have that many winners. Everything takes maybe a little bit more energy.
On the grass I think you need to get really low which is not my favorite thing to do. It's getting better. You might play two or three shots, but it's not that you're going to continue. There is maybe one each set where the rally is over 10 shots. On grass it's not that long, which for me is better for my game and I feel like I can do a lot of points with my game, with my serve. But it's a little bit different mindset for each surface I think.
WTA Insider: Conchita won Wimbledon in 1994. How has it been to work with her for this grass season and what tips has she given you for the surface?
Pliskova: I think she's been helping me through all of the year, not only now because it's grass and because she won Wimbledon. Of course we try to improve the game and play different things on grass maybe a little bit. Use more the slice. But my game is quite different than hers.
I can be a bit more aggressive on the grass. Maybe to use volleys a little bit more than usually, than maybe on the clay. We've been working on a couple of things but not really big changes. Maybe get a little bit lower in the legs, which was working this week as well. She can have good advice for me because she was in this kind of situation as well, so she can be helpful in my team.
WTA Insider: We've talked in years past about how difficult Wimbledon has been for you despite playing well on the surface. How do you plan to go into it this year after winning this title?
Pliskova: The same happened when I won Rome. I was not really a favorite for clay, and then I won Rome and I was a favorite for Paris. So I just don't want to really be in this position. Of course I'm going to be always quite favorite, but like I said before, everything starts from zero.
I just need to be again a hundred percent as I was this week and not really, well, maybe take the tennis that I was playing here, but not thinking that everything's going to go that easy and that I can now easily win Wimbledon because of this week. It's not going to be this way.
So yeah, I want to be just with my legs on the grounds and just to fight for every match. I feel like I'm playing well. So if I can mentally be there and be focused I think there is big chance that I go far.