TORONTO, Canada - Karolina Pliskova was the talk of the town in Toronto on Sunday, taking part in a photoshoot alongside the WTA World No.1 Trophy, and talking about what life has been like since reaching the summit of the WTA rankings during the Wimbledon Championships.
For the easy-going 25-year-old, surprisingly - or perhaps unsurprisingly - not much has changed.
"I’m still practicing the same, with the same team," she told WTA Insider at the Rogers Cup. "I got a private driver in Toronto, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m No.1! Maybe more players have that too."
Pliskova will play either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Alizé Cornet in her opening around match, and admitted to being eager to get back on court, even with the pressure surrounding the 23rd woman in WTA history to lead the rankings. We won't mention the points she has to defend at the Western & Southern Open and US Open, where she won the title and finished runner-up; she did that for us.
"I don’t think it helps too much with the pressure, knowing I’m defending the final of a Grand Slam and winning Cincinnati. It’s definitely not the best thing to have to think about after becoming World No.1, having the pressure to defend points. But I’ll see what happens and hopefully it all works out."
WTA Insider caught up with Pliskova before her photoshoot to talk about the moment she became WTA World No.1, the increased attention at home, and what TV series she binge-watches before bed.
WTA Insider: Where were you when you found out you'd become WTA World No.1. Did you take that photo immediately and post it to Instagram?
Pliskova: I was actually on holidays, so I didn’t want to follow the results from Wimbledon too much. I started getting messages from a few friends, as well as my boyfriend, that there was the match going on between Simona and Jo, and that if Simona lost, I’d get to World No.1. I was following a little bit, but not too much, because I didn’t want to push it. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to get there like this. But in the end, it happened. Then I went to make the picture; it wasn’t before.
WTA Insider: What were some of the emotions you went through once you found out? Has it hit you yet?
Pliskova: At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted it this way, to be on holidays. I still had the Wimbledon result, which wasn’t a great tournament for me, in my head. I would have rather won a match and celebrate with a win, but it happened like this. I still think, even now that time has passed, that it’s an amazing achievement. Maybe I will be happier later, but I’m definitely excited to be playing my first tournament as No.1, and hopefully I make it good.
WTA Insider: Going back briefly to Wimbledon, I want to talk about the match against Magdalena Rybarikova. On the one hand, you have a fairly straightforward gameplan in matches: big serve, big forehand. But you're also a very analytic, tactical person; do you feel like you might have overthought that match, knowing how dangerous she is on grass?
Pliskova: I think it was just a very tough second round, maybe the toughest of the tournament. She was unseeded and hadn’t played for a while, but had been rolling in her last few tournaments, so she’d had so many match wins and was feeling confident, especially on grass. I didn’t feel that bad, but I was still hoping that I could win it. I didn’t play my best tennis, and she has probably the perfect game for grass. With the way I play, there’s still some players whose games I don’t like to play, and she would be one of them, especially on grass when the slice isn’t jumping so high. It’s tough for me to kill those balls and to play aggressively. I made a few mistakes, but at least she made it to the semifinals, so you could see she was in a good shape there.
WTA Insider: You talk about perhaps perferring to become No.1 after a match, but was having a few weeks before playing your next tournament something of an advantage before heading to Toronto?
Pliskova: I felt like it was better to have some time to get used to it. I had my media obligations in the Czech Republic, and I had quite a lot of that. But I still had time to practice, as well, so I think it was good to have that time. We will see how I play here. It’s my first tournament since Wimbledon and I don’t want to put my expectations too high; this is still a new thing for me, and I don’t know how I’ll handle all the pressure. Hopefully it’ll be fine.
WTA Insider: Your results have evolved a lot over the years, first making consistent quarters and semifinals at WTA tournaments, then playing better at majors. Now it seems you're able to play consistently, but also at a high level. What does it say about some of the improvements you've made in your career that now you're WTA World No.1?
Pliskova: Since last summer, I’ve improved so much, and have been able to play well at the big tournaments. That’s the most important, because otherwise you can’t move anywhere in the rankings. I had three titles this year, which is great, and there’s still one more Grand Slam to go. It’s a little bit different situation for me this summer, because I’m defending a lot of points, which will be different than last year. I’m still going to try my best, and we’re back on hardcourts, which is my favorite surface. I believe I have a good chance if I play the way I’ve been playing this year.
WTA Insider: Does being back on your favorite surface help ease some of the pressure of defending those points?
Pliskova: I don’t think it helps too much with the pressure, knowing I’m defending the final of a Grand Slam and winning Cincinnati. It’s definitely not the best thing to have to think about after becoming World No.1, having the pressure to defend points. But I’ll see what happens and hopefully it all works out.
WTA Insider: Do you feel like things have changed since becoming No.1? Do people treat you differently?
Pliskova: I’ve had some media requests after becoming No.1. I tried to organize them and not do everything because I still need to practice and play tennis more than do media. I’m trying to keep the schedule so it’s the best for tennis, and so far it’s been good. Otherwise, nothing’s really changed for me. I’m still practicing the same, with the same team. I got a private driver in Toronto, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m No.1; maybe more players have that too. Some things have been good.
The No.1 Game:
I think it’s Beyoncé's, because she has so many good songs, even the new songs coming out. I’ve followed her life as well, so it’s gotta be her.
No.1 TV show...
I have a serial, and that’s Sex and the City. I’m watching it every evening, before I go to sleep, I watch two episodes.
No.1 tournament to play...
Melbourne, or US Open.
No.1 former WTA No.1 to play...
Every World No.1 was good, and so I don’t really want to choose one. But I would have to say Serena, because I played her and know her the best. I was an opponent on the court against her.
No.1 match in your career...
Playing Serena in the semifinals of last year’s US Open.
Hear more from Pliskova in the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast.