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Aces high | Five of Karolina Pliskova’s best moments so far

hannahwilks in Features 21 Mar 2020
Karolina Pliskova (Sydney Low/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA.)

From her run to the US Open final to her sensational victories over Serena Williams in New York and Melbourne, we look back at the best moments from Karolina Pliskova.

World no. 3 Karolina Pliskova celebrates her 28th birthday today – and what better way to mark it than by looking back at some of the biggest highlights of the Czech’s career?

I: Fed Cup Glory, 2015-2016

Pliskova led the Czech Republic to Fed Cup glory in 2015 and 2016 (PA Images)

The Czech Republic have become a Fed Cup powerhouse in recent years, winning the title six of the past nine years, and Pliskova has played a crucial role for the team – especially in the Fed Cup finals in 2015 and 2016.

Despite having only made her Fed Cup debut in the quarterfinals in 2015, Pliskova played a massive role in the final: With two singles wins for Maria Sharapova having put Russia 2-1 up, Pliskova took the tie to a decisive doubles rubber by beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, then teamed up with Barbora Strycova to clinch the title for the Czechs.

Pliskova and Barbora Strycova celebrate a crucial doubles victory (PA Images)

Pliskova repeated the feat in 2016, going 5-1 in ties throughout the year to put the Czech Republic in the final, then setting the tone for that final by scoring an immense 6-3, 4-6, 16-14 victory over Kristina Mladenovic in the first rubber – the third-longest Fed Cup rubber of all time by games, lasting three hours and 48 minutes.

Pliskova was unable to get the win in the reverse singles against Caroline Garcia, but teamed up with Strycova once more to clinch the title with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Mladenovic and Garcia.

II: Breakthrough run – Cincinnati 2016

Pliskova beat three top-10 players to win the Western & Southern Open in 2016 (PA Images)

The 2016 Western & Southern Open isn’t the only Premier-5 title Pliskova has won in her career, but it was one of her most impressive title runs – and it signalled a breakthrough for the Czech player as she established herself as a real contender for top titles.

At that point, Pliskova had won five titles, but all at International level; and had never been past the third round of a Grand Slam. She had just gone out in the second round of Wimbledon and been handled easily in straight sets by Simona Halep in the round of 16 at the Rogers Cup, and she had a 6-20 record against top-10 players.

Then came Cincinnati, where Pliskova beat Jelena Ostapenko and Misaki Doi (who had just beaten hr at Wimbledon) before winning a trio of matches against top-10 opponents Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber (dropping only four games against Muguruza and against Kerber).

III: US Open 2016

Pliskova came up short in the 2016 US Open final, but her journey to it was a memorable one (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM)

Arguably the high-water mark of Pliskova’s career so far came at the US Open in 2016 when she made a very memorable run to her maiden Grand Slam final.

Seeded 10th, Pliskova had broken into the top 10 for the first time during the summer of the previous season, but had never made it past the third round of any major – and people were starting to ask questions about her failure to do so, especially after losing in the first round of the 2016 French Open to Shelby Rogers and the second round of Wimbledon to Misaki Doi despite having just won the title in Eastbourne and having a game seemingly tailor-made for grass.

Pliskova’s win over Serena Williams at the 2016 US Open was one of the biggest of her career (Photo by Chaz Niell )

Pliskova broke that run in spectacular style, defeating 17th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round and then sixth seed and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the fourth to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. She then went on to become the eighth player to beat both Williams sisters at the same tournament by defeating Serena 6-2, 7-6(5). Williams was hampered by a knee injury and double-faulted on match point, the defeat ending her 186-week reign as world no. 1.

Pliskova would go on to lose to Angelique Kerber in the final, but not after putting up an extremely tough fight, going down 3-6, 6-4, 4-6.

IV: Reign as world no. 1

Pliskova spent eight weeks as the WTA world no. 1 in 2017, one of only 27 women to have held the top spot since rankings began.

Thanks to claiming the Eastbourne title in 2017, Pliskova replaced Angelique Kerber as world no. 1 on 17 July 2017 and held the ranking until 10 September 2017, when she relinquished it to Garbine Muguruza.

V: Australian Open 2019

Pliskova has currently got a 2-2 record against Serena Williams, but both of her wins against the American have been memorable ones.

While the US Open encounter was more memorable because of the shock factor involved and because it marked a watershed moment in Pliskova’s career, their match at the 2019 Australian Open was something else.

Pliskova celebrates after saving four match points to defeat Serena Williams at the 2019 Australian Open (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Pliskova initially led by a set and a break, but Williams surged back to split sets before storming to a 5-1 lead in the decider.

The Czech looked down and out as Williams served for the match, but on the American’s first match point, she rolled her ankle. It rattled her, to say the least, and emboldened Pliskova, who went for broke to erase three more match points and win six straight games to win 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, reaching her first Australian Open semi-final.

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Pliskova already has an impressive title run under her belt for 2020, having defended her Brisbane International title with battling three-set wins over Madison Keys and Naomi Osaka, and we look forward to much more to come from the ‘ace queen’ when the WTA Tour returns to action.