SINGAPORE - Karolina Pliskova is as self-assured a 25-year-old as you'll find on the WTA Tour. The World No.3 has complete clarity when it comes to her strengths (her serve) and her weaknesses (her movement) and she's not shy about discussing either. Her stoic on-court demeanor reveals little, which is to say it reveals much. Nerveless, confident, and intensely focused, Pliskova never seems surprised or concerned about what is happening on court.
But even Karolina has to admit that 2017, a season that saw her become the first woman representing the Czech Republic to hold the No.1 ranking, was full of surprises.
2017 Season Snapshot:
Match record: 51-16 (76%)
Titles: 3 (Brisbane, Doha, Eastbourne)
Key Stat: Tied for most hard court wins with 37.
WTA Finals Qualification: 2nd time.
After teaming up with Petra Kvitova's former coach David Kotyza during the off-season, Pliskova came out of the gates firing. She dominated the field to win Brisbane and continued her form into the Middle East, where she defeated Caroline Wozniacki to win Doha. Back-to-back semifinals at Indian Wells and Miami vaulted Pliskova to No.1 on the Porsche Race to Singapore Leaderboard as the tour turned to clay, an empirical reflection of her superior play through the spring hardcourt season.
Hear from Pliskova after her Brisbane triumph on the WTA Insider Podcast below:
Armed with a big serve and flat strokes, Pliskova's success on the pavement came as no surprise. But her stunning run to the semifinals at Roland Garros reduced even the stoic Czech to laughter. On her least favorite surface, at her least successful Slam, Pliskova proved she could still win without her best weapons, coming through two tough three-set matches before beating Caroline Garcia to make her second major semifinal, where she was a win away from ascending to No.1. In her best match of the tournament, she lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to Simona Halep, but one was more bemused her hugely successful fortnight than Pliskova herself.
"I was almost celebrating after the first round when I won," Pliskova said with a laugh in Paris. "So I'll take those 700 points right now."
Pliskova's clay success would be met with almost immediately disappointment during the grass season, where she looked to be one of the women to beat at Wimbledon after winning her third title of the year in Eastbourne. Handed a tough second-round draw against a surging Magdalena Rybarikova, Pliskova bowed out 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, ending her streak of three consecutive second-week appearances at the Slams.
Despite the loss, Pliskova would take over the No.1 ranking after Wimbledon and hold the top spot for eight weeks until Garbiñe Muguruza overtook her after the US Open. Back on hard courts, Pliskova would finish the season making the quarterfinals or better at five of her last six events, winning 50+ matches for the first time in her career.
Hear from Pliskova after she overtook Angelique Kerber to become the 23rd woman to hold the WTA No.1 ranking below:
Through it all, one constant throughout Pliskova's season has been her ability to find a way to win even when her best has alluded her. As the great champions say, it's not about notching wins when you're playing well, it's about finding a way to win when something is not clicking.
Pliskova's list of memorable comebacks in 2017 is a long one, starting at the Australian Open when she beat Jelena Ostapenko 10-8 in the third after the Latvian served for the match twice, coming back from 0-3 down in the decider to edge Monica Puig 6-4 in the third in Indian Wells, or rallying from 1-4 down in the third to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in Eastbourne. Then there was the match point save against Zhang Shuai to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the third round of the US Open.
"I just try to fight even if my game is not 100%, and it's not 100%, actually, this week," Pliskova said in New York. "But I'm winning, so that's the main thing." Indeed, of the Singapore qualifiers, Pliskova's winning percentage of 76.1% is second only to Elina Svitolina.
Pliskova will have former WTA player Rennae Stubbs in her coaching corner in Singapore, after opting to end her partnership with Kotyza after the US Open.