DOHA, Qatar - Famed for her fast serve, former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova displayed another kind of speed to arrive at the 2019 Qatar Total Open less than 24 hours after a titanic Fed Cup tie in Ostrava.
“Not much,” she admitted when asked how much she slept in between. Pointing to her face, she jokingly adds, “You can see it?”
The 2017 champion had already made time for a light practice, and was optimistic in spite of a surprise defeat to Romania, where she took just her second loss of the season - to rival and fellow former World No.1 Simona Halep - after winning the Brisbane International and reaching the Australian Open semifinals.
“Winning a few tough matches can make you feel automatically great; it might not matter what you’re doing, and sometimes it’s just like this,” she said after her All-Access Hour press conference.
“I feel confident, that I’m able to transfer things from practice into the matches. I’m also enjoying everything, which wasn’t always the case last year. So far, everything is working.”
A productive off-season with coaches Conchita Martinez and Rennae Stubbs has paid dividends for the three-time WTA Ace Leader, culminating in a quarterfinal classic against 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in Melbourne.
“Nobody believed I could turn the match around from 5-1, not even me!” she laughingly recalled. “I don’t think she’s ever lost a match like this, from 5-1 up. Normally she takes control of these matches and is able to close because she’s so strong on serve and return. That game was a bit lucky; she had some match points, and they called a foot fault.
“A lot happened in that one game, but from there, I just tried to hold my serve, and I got some chances. She still had more match points, but I played great tennis – even she said it – in those moments, because I just went for it.”
Pliskova aims to maintain that aggressive attitude in Doha, home to some great memories and a tournament that later helped her first clinch the No.1 ranking.
“I had good matches here even before I won the title, but that year was particularly special because I remember being tired after Fed Cup. It was raining that entire week, so it was very different. I managed to beat both Dominika Cibulkova and Caroline Wozniacki for the first time here.
“I’d also started that year winning Brisbane, so these tournaments are very important to get that confidence and matches. It’s one of the last hardcourt tournaments for a while, so I just want to enjoy it.”
Opening against either Fed Cup teammate Katerina Siniakova or the always-dangerous Elise Mertens on Wednesday - and scheduled to play doubles with twin sister Kristyna - the No.2 seed is yet to properly explore the site of her past success, grateful instead for a comfortable home base - likely to catch up on that lost sleep.
“The player hotel is very nice. There’s a beach and a spa, and that’s very nice. Since I usually come late after Fed Cup and I have to play right away, there is always a lot happening at this event. I have media, player parties, so there isn’t much time to go somewhere special. At least I get to enjoy the hotel!”