SINGAPORE - Set to enter the Centre Court arena for her BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global debut is Karolina Pliskova, the Girl on Fire.
"It's crazy, because that month in the States really changed everything," she told WTA Insider after clinching qualification at the China Open. "I don't know how far down I was on the Road to Singapore leaderboard before Cincinnati - pretty far, I think!"
Down at No.17, to be exact, Pliskova was on no one's Singapore short list in early August. But the Czech youngster quickly began cutting that ranking in half thanks to a blistering run at the Western & Southern Open, where she blitzed future No.1 Angelique Kerber for her second title of the season, and the biggest of her career.
"With my style, things can change a lot if I win a tournament or two."
The winds of change blew at gale-force speeds two weeks later. Rolling into the second week of a major tournament for the first time, she saved a match point to oust Venus Williams at the US Open, and became the fourth woman to beat both Williams sisters at the same Slam.
Roaring into her first Grand Slam final with a straight-set win over top seeded Serena, she finished second to Kerber in one of the best matches of the year, all but clinching the spot in Singapore she so narrowly missed 12 months ago.
"Last year was totally different," she recalled with a wry smile. "I spent the whole season on the Road to Singapore, by the end, I was playing badly. So I didn't make it."
Tough weeks in Tokyo and Wuhan delayed the inevitable, but even after cementing her place among the Elite Eight, Pliskova was still ready to play, battling past young rival Daria Kasatkina in a tense third set tie-break.
"I was just praying to make it through one or two rounds because I knew I'm on the cut and only need a few points to get it. There's always pressure, but I'm happy I made it, and able to win today after finding out last night. It confirms that I belong there."
The tour's ace leader will not only make her WTA Finals debut in singles, but also in doubles alongside partner Julia Goerges. Playing a sparse schedule but peaking at big events, Pliskova's doubles season mirrors her singles, even if her approaches to the two disciplines are radically different.
"You can always improve things in doubles if you're not feeling it in singles. I would maybe practice a few serves anyway after singles, so it can be a big help, where you can make improvements and practice there.
"I'm always in for doubles, and as long as it's fun, and we're winning, it's good."
Under the roof and away from the elements at the Singapore Sports Hub, her laser-like swings and unapologetic offense should be well suited to the indoor conditions. The 24-year-old knows where her strengths lie; playing for her first WTA Finals crown, she won't be afraid to use them.
"For me, I still have one plan to play; I have to be aggressive otherwise I don't have any chance to win."