Jan/20

12

Pliskova Perfect In Brisbane

Pliskova’s perfect start to the year

By Louise Belcourt

World number 2 Karolina Pliskova has just won her third Brisbane International title defeating world number 13 Madison Keys 6-4 4-6 7-5. The impressive win demonstrates she is a force to be reckoned with at the Australian Open in 2020.

Both players won through to the finals in three hard fought sets, where they each came back from a set and a break down to setup (surprisingly) their first ever WTA matchup. In the semi-final, Keys defeated two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 3-6 6-2 6-3; and Pliskova saved one match point in her victory over last year’s Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka 6-7(12) 7-6(3) 6-2.

In the final, the 27-year-old Czech was relentless with her powerful serve and groundstrokes and went up a set and a break to 3-2. But just as she did in the semi-final, Keys dug deep after being broken to break back straight away to love, and then go on to break again at 5-4 to win the set.

The 24-year-old American was the first to falter in the deciding set, losing serve at 3-3. But the twists would continue when the 6 foot 1 Czech served for the title at 5-4 only to be broken when Keys stepped up her return and forehand. But then Pliskova lifted with menacing groundstrokes allowing her to finish off points at the net and break for 6-5. This time she didn’t drop a point on serve, closing it out at love with a service winner that Keys steered wide up the line with her backhand. Pliskova raised her left hand high to the sky before the handshake and a visit to her three-person box. Pliskova has successfully defended the Evonne Goolagong trophy.

Pat Rafter has been a happy hunting ground for the Czech, also winning the title in 2017 and 2019. Discussing her success in Brisbane, Pliskova admitted “It feels like more inside court, so it’s not really open and feels like indoor a little bit. So, I think anytime I just play good indoor, I know I won couple titles indoor too, so the conditions are perfect for me. There’s no wind, no sun, so I can really hit it full power and the ball’s not going to go really anywhere. And I like it here. Now I have a lot of memories here.”

She explained of her performance this year, “I don’t think it was perfect tournament, maybe last year I played here and there a little better, but maybe I was fighting more this time and just somehow find a way to win the matches, which is important. And I beat only good top players, so there was nobody really easy this time, maybe compared to last year I think the draw was a little bit different. So, and of course especially in the beginning of the year I think it’s no better start.”

Keys was candid in her praise for Pliskova’s court coverage saying “I think the biggest thing is I think she actually, she anticipates really well. So even if you wouldn’t say that movement is her strength, she covers the court really well, and I think that starts kind of making you try to go for it a little bit more. So, I was definitely impressed by that today.”

Pliskova reached a milestone today by defending a title for the first time, in 15 previous title victories. The last player to win back to back titles in Brisbane was Serena Williams, who won in 2013 and 2014, and co-incidentally won her first title in three years, today in Auckland. Unbelievably, Williams has now won a title in 4 different decades!

Asked about her chances in Melbourne of winning a Grand Slam, Pliskova didn’t want to get ahead of herself saying “it’s still great to win it [Brisbane] and to have the title, especially beating the last two players, Naomi [Osaka] and Madison [Keys]. I think it always gives you some extra confidence and at least you know which level are you at, so I think it was a great way to start the year. But of course, Grand Slam or any other tournament it always starts on zero, so there’s nobody’s really thinking that, ‘Oh, she won a tournament two weeks ago’. So, I think this doesn’t count. I can still feel well and confident and whatever, but I think we still have to start from zero. I still have to work this week to get some practices and to be ready for it, and then it’s a new tournament so I think anything can happen.”

So how far can Pliskova go this year?

She has a new coaching line-up. Parting ways with Conchita Martinez late last year and working with recently retired WTA player Olga Savchuk, she has also hired successful ATP coach Daniel Vallverdu. Vallverdu has never coached a WTA player, but brings a wealth of experience in coaching the top men’s players like Andy Murray (to a gold medal and 2 grand slam wins), Grigor Dimitrov (reaching world number 3 under his guidance), and now Stan Wawrinka.

With both Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki exorcising their demons in 2018 by winning grand slam titles, the attention now turns to Pliskova being the most accomplished player who has never won a grand slam. With 16 titles, a finals appearance in the US Open, and a semi-final appearance in last year’s Australian Open (losing to eventual winner Osaka), can the Czech win her maiden grand slam in 2020?

So, will we see Pliskova holding another trophy this time in Melbourne in three weeks’ time?

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31 comments

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 12, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    Pliskova looked very good. Watch out for her in AO. I like that scream after the final break. She wants it.

  • Andrew Miller · January 12, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Shocked Pliskova held it together. Nice words from Keys and an excellent report from L. Belcourt.

  • catherine · January 13, 2020 at 6:21 am

    No shocks in Adelaide – Pavs, Tomljanovic, Vekic, Yastremska all go through. Bencic bt Kasatkina who’s lost the plot. She just can’t find her out of the mire – maybe things happening in the background ? Kerber bt Wang SS.

  • catherine · January 13, 2020 at 6:23 am

    Louise Belcourt is a Canadian artist. Could they possibly be related ? 🙂

  • catherine · January 13, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Angie plays Yastremska next. ‘We know each other very well’ she claims, although they’ve never played each other and there’s somewhat of a generation gap. Yas to win this clash of BFs.

    Simona makes her first appearance for a while tomorrow and it’ll be interesting to see what’s happening with her game.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 7:02 am

    Catherine, we have the only Louise Belcourt. The Canadian may be an impostor ☺

  • Jon King · January 13, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Another reason why USTA is frustrating. They play favorites with how they use their influence and resources to the extreme.

    Ci Ci Bellis, whose wealthy family sent her to Boca Raton as a kid to take advantage of free training and facilities at the USTA high performance center….then wildcards into all tournaments at age 15-16-17 so she could get good draws and WTA points.

    Then she moves with family to Orlando, more free training and facilities. Gets injured, free rehab, training. Now ranked 838th in the world….wildcard into main draw at Hobart while much higher ranked players had to qualify.

    Hundreds of thousands and wildcards being spent on one player, and one who is 5’6″ and 100 lbs. Seriously??

  • Hartt · January 13, 2020 at 10:06 am

    I see from the scores for the Auckland tourney that Paire beat young Sinner in SS, and Ymer the Younger beat Tiafoe, also in SS.

  • Hartt · January 13, 2020 at 10:07 am

    Correction, I meant to write that both those matches went to 3 sets.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Wildcards: be stingy and hand out only on performance/merit (e.g. “winning” the card, ranking cutoff, tournament for a wildcard, etc) with some exceptions for nostalgia or past champs.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 11:22 am

    DKat qualified at least 🙂 Having Bencic after a pair of qualies matches is no picnic. If DKat gets better, ranking goes hire, she doesn’t face Bencic until at least a round or two later in any draw. Bencic played well for last half of the year, so she probably feels pretty good about her tennis.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Scores from Adelaide jumping out at me:
    Pavlyuchenkova d. Kontaveit (6-2 6-4). Scoreline a little underwhelming for Kontaveit. She must run hot and cold. I thought Kontaveit would be doing better than she has. On flip side, Pavlyuchenkova is a player I like a lot and I am glad that she is still playing well.

    Vekic d. Sevastova in three. Vekic has had a nice run over the past eight months? She has stayed committed. This is a quality win. I totally prefer Sevastova’s game, a thinking player!

    Kenin over Golubuc (haven’t seen), Collins over Sasnovic (haven’t seen), Tomljanovic d. Putinseva, nice win for the wildcard.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 11:35 am

    Auckland men’s qualies, some “minor blockbusters”

    Hurkacz d. Sonego, nice win to make the draw.

    Humbert d. Ruud in three sets in a next gen battle. I like Humbert a lot, and I have been surprised by the Ruud improvement. Then again I will always enjoy a crafty “true lefty” game (one reason I cheer on Shapovalov). I will cheer on his understudies also in Moutet and Humbert.

    Adelaide, nothing popping out.
    Cuevas d. Opelka in a third set tiebreak.
    Chardy d. Simon, who must be upset.
    Djere d. Popyrin (some of the easiest power I’ve seen in Popyrin, not familiar with Djere)
    Harris d. Garin (not a good start for Christian Garin), nice win from Harris of South Africa.
    Querrey escapes his match in a third set tiebreak d. Barrere from France, who is top 100 🙂

  • catherine · January 13, 2020 at 11:51 am

    Interesting to see Vondrousova who’s returning from wrist surgery – also Sabalenka v Hsieh. What tactics for Aryna – blast Su-Wei off the court or what ? Wouldn’t put money on it.

    Angie has put on some weight – I wonder how much training she’s been doing ? I’d be very surprised if she beats Yastremska – nothing new in her game and she’s slowing, you can see it. ‘Coasting’ ? Yes.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    Yastremska is “strategy-lite”; the German “should” win, but if she’s not in form the young Ukranian will claim victory. Has Yastremska showed “any” change since her time with the coach that used to coach Mladenovic while boasting of his work with “elite WTA players” and writing books in languages he doesn’t know? (Sorry, the guy, who his top former charge considered a “hitting partner”, just lends himself to ridicule.)

    If Sabalenka, she has enough game to tame Hsieh, much as she did to Muchova in Zhuhai. But if Sabalenka has her mind elsewhere, and has been unable to train consistently for many reasons, then the clever Hsieh should pull this out.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    At neck/neck in rankings, Yastremska may be favored. Kerber should win, but she may not. Anyways, I don’t put any stock into these pre-Aussie tournaments – they are practice matches for many players with exception of players that need the points to survive the next few months (U.S. mens players that desperately need the points often do pretty well in the pre-Australian tournaments).

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 12:34 am

    Adelaide – Barty really struggles past Pavs in 3. Ashleigh’s not looking in top form so far this year so let’s hope she finds something for Melbourne.
    Vondrousova finishes her match 6-0 so seems her wrist is holding up. Sloane goes out SS to someone I can’t remember (see Flashscore for those boring details).
    Kerber might possibly have beaten Sloane on this showing. What is it with Stephens ? Karma ?

    More to come…

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 1:39 am

    Qualifiers suffering in Melbourne from air pollution. Officials seem sanguine but I’m not so sure. It’s high summer in Aust and the fires aren’t going away.

    Back in Adelaide Hsieh takes the first set from Sabalenka 7-5.

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 2:07 am

    Wow the fans are certainly beating up Sloane. Justified really – she was terrible. If she wants to get married and leave tennis, if only for a while, then she should do that. Her mind’s not on the game and her coach should take a walk.

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 4:19 am

    Sabalenka bts Hsieh in 3 set epic – fastish court in Adelaide probably gave the edge. And Simona looks like finishing the day v Tomjlanovic.

    Barty hits 11 aces and Julia 10 v Hon, with a number of doubles. But no upsets – unless you count Stephens which I don’t think we’d do now.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Saw some of Sloane, no passion was evident. Just out there. The coach was called out but he just gave a cliche filled monologue that Sloane pretended to listen to. Pretty awkward stuff. Correction, the toughest and most unstable job in sports is coaching a disinterested female tennis player.

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 8:29 am

    WTA does it again – no report or highlights on Hsieh and Sabalenka hours after the match. I caught a pirated stream highlights – looks like an excellent match, high quality aggressive all-court tennis. Aryna seems to have lost some weight and she is moving much better.

    WTA thinks Mirza and her baby are more important.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Sam Sumyk has returned from the tennis coaching graveyard, has been hired by Pavlyuchenkova. Good to see Sumyk has survived the Muguruza torture chamber, though he does look battle weary, as if he’s been to hell and back a dozen times.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 8:35 am

    There is a concern that Hsieh has used up her last surge of singles greatness in 2019. At some point she will be overpowered. Tough start to the year in singles but doubles she is still a queen, just won Brisbane with Strycova. When singles becomes too much of a challenge, can see her lasting a few more years in doubles if she wants to.

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Scoop – true re Hsieh but she did play pretty well in this match and the 3rd set went 7-5. Tennis.com had some sense and called it Match of the Day. Also, I don’t think we can say Sabalenka is ‘one-dimensional’ any longer -she showed a lot of variety in this match. You could see how much the crowd appreciated the quality.

    Interesting to see Pavs hiring Sumyk. At one point she was coached by Kindlmann (now with Kerber), to no great effect. Not sure why Angie bothers – she plays exactly the same.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 9:17 am

    Catherine, Hsieh’s issue will be her lack of physicality to be able to play these grueling physical three setters one after the other. She has to work so hard to win a singles match, then come out and do it again. The talent is there to do it, so is the will, but the physicality is not. If she does even better this year in her mid 30s with that two horsepower body against the six horsepowers, she will have to be called the greatest pound for pound player in history.

  • Jon King · January 14, 2020 at 9:20 am

    Sloane’s coach and every announcer and fan…’move your feet, play with some energy’. Sloane, ‘nah, I made some coin at the US Open and have a great boyfriend so I’m good’.

    She seriously rips the fans off many matches. Zero effort.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 9:48 am

    She looks like a player who plays because she has to play. Rather watch Lan play anyday. So would a lot of other people.

  • Jon King · January 14, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Its the popular thing to say for announcers that ‘Sloane could turn it on in Melbourne and win the whole thing just like the US Open’.

    But they showed video of Sloane at the US Open during last nights match and it looks like 2 different people. US Open Sloane was absolutely ripped and in excellent shape. They act like her talent is enough, but at the US Open she was both fit and of course talented. Big difference.

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Sloane should be fined for lack of effort but she won’t be because she’s just been elected to the Players’ Council. What a joke.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Jon, I read a report on tennis tonic that Sloane Stephens is now a clone or a drone and the real Sloane is living with her husband in Canada. )

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