MIAMI, FL, USA - A long month of tennis caught up with Karolina Pliskova in the middle of the Miami Open final, and as Aussie rival Ashleigh Barty was on the ascent, the former World No.1 was out of batteries.
"I think the first set was the key of the match, because I was feeling very tired from maybe like fourth, fifth game," Pliskova said after the 7-6(1) 6-3 defeat. "So if I'd had a set for me, it would maybe be different. So it was somehow tough to fight in the second."
Pliskova had been on the night shift for all five of her matches in Miami, twice finishing after midnight to defeat Yulia Putintseva and fellow former World No.1 Simona Halep on a rain-affected Thursday.
"Yesterday was horrible," she joked of her post-semifinal condition. "Today, a little bit better, but still not, of course, the best.
"I also think the experience to not play a day match was also key; you could see a little bit, because she played some day matches, some doubles, also. So that was a little bit, you know, the difference, I think, also, at some points.
"I went to sleep at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. I felt it."
Still, the three-time WTA Ace Leader has plenty to feel good about when she looks back on a blistering start to 2019. Beginning the year with a 12th career WTA title at the Brisbane International, she pulled off an improbable comeback against Serena Williams to reach the Australian Open semis, and hasn't lost before the quarterfinals at any of her five tournaments played.
Not that the Czech powerhouse was entirely satisfied heading to the Hard Rock Stadium.
"Last tournament was quite disappointing to end in the quarterfinal. I thought I could better," she said of a three-set loss to a streaking Belinda Bencic, who had just won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. "I was, like, 'Yeah, but why quarterfinals?'"
"Now it's finals, and of course it's better. I would love to take the title, but I think I played good matches. I beat Simona, whom I've beat just a couple of times. This match, for me, was the best out of the tournament."
Her win over Halep was just the first against the Romanian on hardcourts outside a Fed Cup tie back in 2016; the only other win came arguably on Halep's home court, where she was playing for a third straight Mutua Madrid Open title last spring.
"I want to move on with this, to take some positives, and not ignore the negatives. It was my first final here in Miami, and also out of those two tournaments, my first final. Of course I'm happy about this. I think the first few months were good, more than good. So my best so far in the life."
Without Fed Cup on her schedule, Pliskova next plans to defend her Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title in Stuttgart. While hardcourts may be her best surface, clay courts have become increasingly more comfortable since she reached the 2017 French Open semifinals and won the title in Stuttgart, which gives her plenty of motivation to continue her 2019 momentum.
"First I'll take a couple days off. I'm going to move back home. I'm going to do some preparation maybe somewhere out of Czech, maybe Monaco or maybe Barcelona because Conchita is there. So there is going to be enough time to prepare, and I'm looking for a change."