She is a “young gun” that can surely become a “top-notch player” if she gets quicker, according to two-time grand slam champion Andy Murray.
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“Fun to watch, aces, winners, great timing,” the world No4 tweeted last month as he watched Karolina Pliskova take on Petra Kvitova in the Sydney final.
It was a tight affair between the two Czechs and for most of it, you’d struggle to pinpoint which player was a double Wimbledon champion and which one was Pliskova – a huge-hitting up-and-comer who was looking to make her top-20 debut.
Kvitova ended up winning that final in two tiebreak sets but it was Pliskova who caught the eye of many, including Murray and his three million Twitter followers.
“The movement is probably the weakest side of mine but I’m still working on it and I hope it will be better. And I hope that Andy will one day say that I’m fast enough for him,” a smiling Pliskova told Sport360° ahead of her second main draw appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
While the world No22 is yet to become a household name, Pliskova’s Sydney run certainly didn’t come out of nowhere.
A week prior to that, Pliskova had taken out ex-world No1 Victoria Azarenka in Brisbane, carrying over the momentum from the end of last season where she made the US Open third round – eliminating world No9 Ana Ivanovic en route – before reaching the final in Hong Kong and picking up titles in Seoul and Linz.
The 22-year-old is everything Murray said she is. She sports the kind of boom-boom tennis we’re used to seeing from her compatriot Kvitova and it looks like the WTA tour will have to make room for one more powerful Czech at the top of the women’s game pretty soon.
“I’ve always been serving well. It’s my biggest weapon,” says Pliskova.
Pliskova has a tennis-playing sister, Kristyna, and the pair made history together at Linz in 2013 when they became the first-ever twins to win a doubles title on the WTA tour.
The twins had great success as juniors, with Karolina winning the Australian Open junior title in 2010 and Kristyna taking the girls’ singles trophy at Wimbledon the same year. But the twins learnt the hard way that having a successful junior career doesn’t necessarily translate into grand slam victories on the women’s circuit, and it has taken Karolina five years to reach the world’s top 20 and make the third round in the women’s draw at Melbourne Park – the site of her greatest triumph as a junior.
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“Juniors is a totally different competition so it was a little bit tough to come through after that knowing that you are a good junior, getting into the women’s game. Because no one cares that you won Melbourne, or that my sister won Wimbledon,” she says.
“So it was a little bit tough for us to get through in the women’s game. But I was still ranked 150 or 200. Then by winning my first title (in Kuala Lumpur in 2013), I got into the top 100 and that was a turning point for me.”
In the solitary world of tennis, it must be a true blessing to have a sister who is also a professional player. While Karolina explains that she gets along well with everyone in the locker room, she knows she is particularly lucky to have her twin around.
“I have a few friends, especially the Czech girls. But I don’t really need anyone because I have her (Kristyna). That’s why it’s the best thing to have a sister playing the same sport, having her around in the tournaments,” says Karolina, who is two minutes younger than Kristyna.
But her recent leap in the rankings means she is now 122 spots higher than Kristyna in the standings and as their career trajectories diverge, Karolina admits things are getting a bit harder for her sister.
“I think it’s more difficult now for her than for me because I’m still in the tournaments and playing well so I’m enjoying that time. But she has to get a little bit more up, get some points, win some matches and I hope she’s going to be in the same tournaments as me soon,” she adds.
“We are really great friends. We talk every day, always on the phone. But we fight sometimes if we are too much together. One year we were together in every single tournament, and every day together, so we were a little bit fighting. But now it’s a little bit different.”
Karolina, who owns three WTA titles from seven final appearances, could very much have a major breakthrough this season. She was seeded at a grand slam for the first time in Melbourne last month and led the Czech Republic to a 4-0 sweep against Canada in Fed Cup last weekend – in her first nomination from her home country.
She confessed that she felt a little pressure as a seed at the Australian Open but says she won’t pile any expectations on herself moving forward this season.
“I don’t want to have any expectations from myself. I just want to stay in the top 20 or around 20 because I’m defending quite a lot of points this year and it’s going to be hard to stay there,” she says.
“But I started the year well so now it looks like it’s not going to be that hard.”
And having received some valuable advice from Murray, does she have any words of wisdom for the British No1? “I don’t want to say anything, I think he’s good enough,” she laughs. “But he can get quicker as well.”