World No. 11 Karolina Pliskova has been on the rise for quite a few years now. However, success at Grand Slams was alien to her until this year’s US Open where the Czech shocked both Venus and Serena Williams. Her stunning straight-sets upset of the 22-time Major winner Serena in the semi-finals brought her to the attention of the sports world.
She is now trying to emulate her compatriot Hana Mandlikova, who is till now the only woman from the Czech Republic to win the US Open in 1985. As she takes on the reigning Australian Open champion and soon-to-be- World No. 1 Angelique Kerber in tonight’s summit clash, here are ten things that will help you to know Pliskova better:
1. Born in Louny, Czech Republic to Radek Plisek and Martina Pliskova on March 21, 1992, the right-handed Karolina and her left-handed twin sister Kristyna both were prolific juniors. In 2010, Karolina went on to win the junior Australian Open crown in singles, defeating Laura Robson. Her sister followed up her achievement with the junior Wimbledon singles title the same year.
While Karolina backed up her junior glory with an appearance at the US Open final, her sister unfortunately has not been able to mature as fast as Karolina. Kristyna’s best ranking has so far been only 83 and she is yet to reach any singles final on the WTA Tour.
2. Having turned pro in 2009, she first tasted success on the hardcourts of Kuala Lumpur in 2013 when she lifted the singles title. Karolina has captured five more singles titles after that. This year, she has already triumphed on the grasscourts of Nottingham and the hardcourts of Cincinnati.
3. Her Cincinnati win and her subsequent run to the US Open final has now put her in a position where she is seeking to win her 12th consecutive match. The last time that the 24-year-old won 12 matches in a row was in 2011 when she was playing on the ITF circuit.
The aforementioned winning streak this year has seen her scalp five top-10 players so far – Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbine Muguruza and Kerber in Cincinnati, Venus and Serena Williams at the Flushing Meadows.
4. She is an excellent doubles player as well. In 2013, the Pliskova sisters made history by becoming the first set of twins to win a WTA doubles title at Linz. They further added to it with titles at Bad Gastein and Hong Kong the next year.
She also won two more doubles titles with different partners the latest of which came this year on grass at Birmingham alongside Barbora Strycova.
5. 2015 was her breakthrough year when she reached six WTA finals, winning just one title at home in Prague on clay. Her consistency throughout the season helped her break into the top 10, where she peaked at No. 7. Her 2016 US Open performance has guaranteed a further rise in the rankings. She is set to climb to No. 6 and if she manages to win tonight, she will be the new No. 5.
6. Last year, she also played a pivotal role in helping the Czech Republic win its fourth Fed Cup title in five years. With the Czech trailing Russia 1-2 in the final at home, it was all left to the Fed Cup final debutante Pliskova to show her magic. She won both her singles as well as doubles rubbers to gift her country the victory.
7. Her serve is the biggest talking point of her game. The 6’1’’ player is known for her thunderous aces. In 2014, she finished with 435 aces, right next to Serena Williams’ 452. She topped the American in 2015, notching up 517 aces in 75 matches. This year she is once again leading the pack having already amassed 446 aces. Her lethal first serve was one of the principal architects of her defeat of Serena in the semi-finals where she won 84% of the points on her first serve.
8. Despite showing a lot of promise on the WTA Tour, strangely she had never been able to replicate her form in Slams until the 2016 US Open. Prior to the ongoing Slam, she had never ever managed to advance past the third round at any Major in 17 previous attempts.
9. With her upset wins over Venus in the fourth round and Serena in the semi-finals, Pliskova became just the fourth player to beat the two sisters in the same Slam. The other three are Martina Hingis (2001 Australian Open), Justine Henin (2007 US Open) and Kim Clijsters (2009 US Open).
Overall, she became the seventh player to topple the sisters at any tournament.
10. Karolina is known for having two Polynesian-style tattoos. One is on her left thigh while the other is on her left arm.