Karolina Pliskova will arrive at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next month with her confidence sky-high after she got 2017 off to a flying start by claiming her seventh career title at the Brisbane International last week.
That triumph followed her best-ever season during which the world No. 5 won Nottingham and Cincinnati and reached the Eastbourne final, before coming within one victory of earning her first Grand Slam crown at the US Open – overcoming Venus Williams in the fourth round and Serena Williams in the semis before falling in three nail-biting sets to Angelique Kerber.
She then closed out her year by playing a part in her country’s Fed Cup final victory over France. Her incredible opening rubber victory over Kristina Mladenovic finished 16-14 in the third, with the tie’s 49 games the third most ever played in a Fed Cup match.
In view of her success at such prestigious tournaments it is surprising that Pliskova claims to be less than comfortable at such events, although it is something she is adapting to over time.
“I always knew I had a big game so if I’m playing well I can beat the good players, the best players,” she said.
“But it’s tough sometimes to play the best tennis on the big stages. Now I think I finally got used to it. I’m not scared of anything, not my opponents, not myself, not the crowd, not anything. I think it just takes time with me and some experience, which I have now.”
Pliskova will need all her confidence when she comes up against one of the strongest fields ever assembled for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next month.
Seven further members of the top 10 are also vying for the title, including world number one Angelique Kerber, reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza and former Dubai winners, Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki.
Others bidding for one of the most sought-after trophies on the WTA Tour will be worthy challengers such as WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova, Britain’s Johanna Konta and three-time Dubai finalist and two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.
After her great run in New York it is natural that many eyes will be upon her to see if Pliskova can go one win better at the Australian Open. But although that surely adds extra pressure she insists that will not be the case.
“I’m not going to feel any pressure (in Melbourne),” she said. “Obviously people are going to say that I have a good chance. I’m hearing this more often, that I’m going to win a Grand Slam this year. But I don’t care if it’s this year or next year. I just want to try at every Grand Slam and do the best results there.”
And to further her bid for a Grand Slam crown and to continue her climb up the rankings she is trying to add more of a net game to her arsenal.
“I want to move closer to the net and have easier volleys,” she revealed to WTA Insider. “It’s improving. I think the doubles with Julia Goerges really helped me. I played a lot of doubles last year, even the year before, but last year we played really good. We’re going to continue this year. You have to play good volleys in doubles. So I think this really helped me.”
Certainly the pair have been enjoying plenty of court time and top-level competition, as in 2016 they reached the semi-finals of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon as well as Cincinnati, and they reached the Indian Wells final. Karolina also won Birmingham with Barbora Strycova and reached the Nottingham semis with her sister Kristyna.
Sunday morning posing with trophy🏆😘 pic.twitter.com/GSQlGQogDi— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) January 8, 2017
“Karolina Pliskova showed us in 2015 what she is capable of when she reached the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final by defeating such accomplished opponents as Ana Ivanovic and Garbine Muguruza,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers.
“It will be very interesting to see how she fares this year against a field that is second to none.”
“Pliskova will face a formidable challenge as the event boasts one of the toughest draws outside of a Grand Slam” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.
“The depth of the field this year means that Dubai tennis fans will have a fantastic opportunity to see for themselves nearly every top player in the world.”
Staged at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Garhoud, the action will commence on 19 February with the WTA Premier 5 event, followed on 27 February with the ATP 500 tournament offering a combined prize pool of US$5.2 million.