My very best wishes for Serena – the expecting mom . My admiration for Serena as a player and person has increased manifolds. I am certain she’ll be as good a mother as she was a player. The tennis world will certainly miss her but this new chapter in her life is bound to be as fulfilling as the previous one. The fact that she was pregnant while playing the Australian Open 2017 goes to show that not only is she a mental giant but also a strong athlete to have extracted such an effort out of herself while in her first trimester.
The tennis world is abuzz with the news of her pregnancy and what it means for some of the top contenders for slam titles. A lot is being written about how Serena’s news will shape the next couple of years of Sharapova’s, Muguruza’s and Kerber’s careers. However, I feel Pliskova could be the biggest beneficiary with Serena not in the contention for slams. After all only Pliskova’s serve can match the devastation of Serena’s and her dominating, rather than retrieving or defensive, play style is somewhat similar to Serena’s.
So how is Pliskova most qualified to benefit the most from Serena’s absence in the tour?
Pliskova had a formidable season in 2016 and has continued to perform well in 2017.
Currently ranked a respectable 3rd in the WTA rankings, her achievements so far on the WTA tour have not been a barn burner but have certainly been noticeable since 2014 which we believe was truly her breakthrough year with wins over Sorana Cirstea in Pattaya City, Varvara Lepchenko in Seoul finals, and Ana Ivanovic in the 2nd round of the US Open. She reached 5 finals and won 2 of those in 2014 and as a result saw her ranking catapult from 67 to 24. In 2015 she claimed a few royal scalps such as that of Azarenka’s in Brisbane, Navarro’s and Kerber’s at the Apia International Sydney, and Ana Ivanovic’s, Safarova’s and Muguruza’s at the Dubai Duty Free. She also made her top 10 debut but ended the year at number 11 in 2015. She was also instrumental in helping the Czech Republic win the Fed Cup final by winning her single’s rubber against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and teaming up with Barbora Strýcová to win the deciding double.
In 2016 her breakthrough win was against Simona Halep in Czech Republic’s tie against Romania. Simona’s movement and thereby her skills as a retriever are formidable and had always troubled Karolina, and Karolina had lost all of her prior meetings against Simona. This win gainst Simona we believe should have given her the belief that she can best the best of retrievers when at her best! Her first title came on grass at the 2016 Aegon Open and she also beat Kerber in straight sets at the Western & Southern Open finals. However her very best was to come at the US Open where she beat Venus and then Serena on route to her first slam final which she lost to Kerber in 3 tightly fought sets. Her other noteworthy performance came in the Fed Cup final against France where she beat Kristina Mladenovic 14-12 in the third set and then teamed up with Barbora Strýcová to defeat Mladenovic & Garcia to seal the Fed Cup for the Czech Republic yet again and for the third time in a row.
Karolina’s 2017 started with a bang with her 7th title in Brisbane where she beat Roberta Vinci, Elina Svitolina and Alize Cornet for the trophy. She reached the QF of the Australian Open and saw her ranking reach a career high of 3 in the world. Her 8th title came at Doha where she beat quality players like Caroline Garcia, Dominika Cibulková with 21 aces, and the former no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets in the finals. She also had impressive semi-final appearances in both Indian Wells and Miami this year.
She has now defeated hard hitters, retrievers, defensive players and all other sorts; and has established herself in the top 5 which in itself is a major step towards winning slams and making a go for the number one slot.
Game Overview: Like her country women, Kvitova and Safarova, Pliskova has an extremely aggressive style of play with powerful groundies and a powerhouse of a serve which is accurate and lethal when firing on all cylinders. She has been the undisputed WTA ace leader in both 2015 and 2016, and surprisingly enough, lead Serena by over 200 aces in 2016 with 530 aces to Serena’s 324!
She also hits the ball a little flatter like Petra Kvitova and therefore like her she clocks a higher percentage of unforced errors which are well exploited by quality retrievers such as Simona Halep and Wozniacki. Other interesting aspects of Pliskova’s game are creativity and her willingness and ability to approach the net, and she even seems quite comfortable there. She is a good all court player, however her relatively flatter hitting gets her into trouble with return of low and sliced balls. Her movement though not Simona like is still quite good for a tall girl.
So where does Karolina Pliskova rank in various categories of the 138 MPH Tennis Scale which can portend not only greatness but also the prospects of reaching the number one?
Karolina is a quality player with powerful ground shots and a booming serve like Serena. She has what, we believe, it takes to win slams and reach that highly coveted number one rank. Like Serena and Kvitova she can end points with one or two shots and thereby dictate play, and those qualities have reigned supreme in most, if not all, WTA slam winners over the last 10 years. She however needs to develop more consistency across tournaments if she wants to become number one as her performance level drops drastically from one tournament to the next.
Conclusion: Barring injuries and mishaps we expect Karolina to be number one, win a few slams, and give us many glimpses of Serena like dominating style of play.