WTA Insider David Kane | No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova comes to Melbourne full of good momentum and good memories as she tries to cement her status as a favorite Down Under.
WTA Staff

Karolina Pliskova made her Rod Laver debut long before she began playing WTA tournaments, having won the junior title back in 2010 over the likes of Daria Gavrilova and Laura Robson.

"It's seven years now, but I still remember, of course I do," she said in pre-tournament press. "It was my first Grand Slam I ever played. So obviously the final, when I was playing on Rod Laver, it was huge for me. I was small and scared, and then I won. So it was a big thing, the first big result I ever had."

Pliskova has been standing far taller in recent months, rocketing up the rankings from No.17 just before Cincinnati to a career-high of No.5. The expedited rise has been in no small part due to her newfound success on the game's biggest stages, winning the Western & Southern Open before beating both Williams sisters en route to her first Grand Slam final at the US Open.

The 24-year-old went on to end her season in Singapore and start 2017 in similar fashion, winning the Brisbane International before pulling out of Sydney with a niggling thigh injury; the pattern is hardly lost on Pliskova.

Karolina Pliskova

"I would say this week is similar to New York, actually, with the form. I won Cincinnati, then withdrew from New Haven. I'm trying to be 100% ready, especially since I felt something a little bit after that week in Brisbane. If you're playing well, have a lot of matches, I don't see any reason to play another tournament which is ending Saturday, then you would have to still play on Monday, which I think it's tough, especially in these conditions here in Australia.

"That's what I did in New York, as well. So I just did it here."

The shift in strategy is a major about face from how the Czech youngster conducted her career through last summer. For a while, it seemed there was hardly a tournament that didn't include the big-serving Pliskova, who once eschewed off-court training in favor of match fitness.

But that's not the only change she took Down Under; along with the new attitide is new coach, David Kotyza. Petra Kvitova's former coach joined team Pliskova over the off-season, and both admit the partnership is still in progress, despite the obvious success.

"I just want him to believe in me and to prepare me for the tournaments where I want to play the best tennis, which are all the Grand Slams. I need my coach to just to be ready to give me the advices which I need, to know little bit about me, my game. I want him to go the way where I want to go.

"We both decided we definitely want to play aggressive tennis. He's just pushing me this way, to be [a] better player than I am now."

For all her improvements, Pliskova stops short at calling herself a favorite to take home the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy; before her fairytale in New York, she had never reached the second week of a major in 17 prior appearances, leaving her cautious on how she assesses her chances before taking on Sara Sorribes Tormo in the first round.

"I would definitely not take me as a favorite of this tournament. It's a big draw. There is a lot of players. I just take it step by step. I just know my opponent from the first round. I want to pass this one. Then we can talk about the next one.

"There are still many more players better than me. Everyone is in shape and everyone is excited to play this Grand Slam. It's the first Grand Slam of the year. Everyone was working hard in the off-season, so it's tough to say. We will just see after few rounds here."

A few wins under her belt should see her grow in confidence, particularly at one of the majors at which she feels most at home.

"I would say this is little bit better place for me than New York. I don't want to compare; every city is different, but here you have time. It doesn't take you one hour to get to the hotel, which is nice. Even the weather I would say it's quite similar.

"I think this can be the place where I can play my best tennis as well, because the courts suit me. The weather and the balls as well. Why not here?"

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.