There have been a number of instances when a player has performed miserably in a tournament only to see his/her ranking climb, but Karolina Pliskova’s story takes the cake.
The Czech was beaten by eventual semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova in the second round of Wimbledon despite winning the first set, marking a fifth consecutive second round exit for the Czech. Despite another early Wimbledon exit, Pliskova will be the new WTA World No. 1 at the end of the tournament as Simona Halep, who needed to reach the semis of the tournament to dethrone Angelique Kerber from the No. 1 ranking, was eliminated by Johanna Konta in the quarter-finals.
Pliskova has been performing pretty well in the last 12 months and has established herself as one of the finest female tennis players in the world currently. Throughout her career, Pliskova has registered a number of big wins and this article elucidates the top five wins of her career.
#5 vs. Ana Ivanovic at the second round of the 2014 US Open
2014 was Pliskova’s breakthrough year as she made it into the Top 25 by the end of the season. After reaching the second round of the first three Grand Slams, Pliskova was determined to make an impact at the US Open.
The Czech was ranked 42nd in the world heading into the tournament and had a comfortable first round as she defeated 60th ranked Austrian Yvonne Meusberger 6-2, 6-2. Having made the second round of the US Open for the first time, Pliskova was up against 8th seed Ana Ivanovic who had reached the final of the Cincinnati Masters a few days back.
Pliskova held her nerve to take the first set 7-5 before taking the second set 6-4 to advance to the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. Pliskova was then eliminated in the next round, falling to 29th seed Casey Dellacqua in three sets.
#4 vs. Angelique Kerber at the semi-finals of the 2015 Sydney Open
Pliskova had a fine year in 2014 when she rose from 67 to 24 in the WTA rankings by the end of the season. The Czech began 2015 by exiting the Brisbane International in the second round and would next feature at the Sydney International.
Pliskova began her tournament by defeating qualifier Polona Hercog in the first round which was followed by a double bagel against Nicole Gibbs in the second round to reach the quarter-finals. At the quarter-finals, Pliskova came from a set down to defeat Carla Suarez Navarro to set up a semi-final clash against 5th seed Angelique Kerber.
The match turned out to be a one-sided affair as the Czech breezed past the German 6-3, 6-2 to reach her first WTA Premier final. Pliskova went on to lose the final against second seed Petra Kvitova in two tight sets, both of which were decided by tie-breaks. Due to her performances at the competition, Pliskova broke into the Top 20 of the WTA rankings for the first time in her career.
#3 vs. Caroline Wozniacki at the final of the 2017 Qatar Total Open
Following a quarter-final exit at the Australian Open, Pliskova would next play at the Qatar Total Open where she was the second seed due to which she received a bye in the first round. The then 24-year old began her tournament with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Caroline Garcia following which she dropped only two games against former Australian Open quarter-finalist Zhang Shuai to reach the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, Pliskova was up against third seed Dominika Cibulkova. The Czech won the first set 6-4 but the Slovak rallied back to win the second set by the same score before the Czech held her nerve to take the third set and qualify for the final where she would take on Caroline Wozniacki.
The second seed took the first set 6-3 before clinching the second set 6-4 to win her second title of the year and her 8th in total.
#2 vs. Angelique Kerber at the final of the 2016 Cincinnati Masters
Following a disappointing Wimbledon and a third round exit at the Rogers Cup, Karolina Pliskova skipped the Olympics and returned to play at the Cincinnati Masters just before the US Open. Pliskova was the 15th seed and began her tournament with a straight-set win over future Grand Slam Champion Jelena Ostapenko before seeing off Japan’s Misaki Doi in the third round to reach the quarter-finals.
In the quarters, the Czech won a tense battle against 7th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets to qualify for the semi-finals where she comfortably defeated 4th seed Garbine Muguruza (dropping only four games in the process) to reach the final. In the final, she was up against top seed Angelique Kerber who would be crowned the new World No. 1 provided she won the match.
The match proved to be completely one-sided as Pliskova won the first set 6-3 before trouncing her German opponent in the second set 6-1 to win her maiden WTA Premier 5 title. Pliskova’s win not only prevented Kerber from reaching the summit of the rankings but also extended Serena Williams’ stay at the top to 186 consecutive weeks, thus breaking Steffi Graf’s record of 185 consecutive weeks at the top of the WTA rankings.
#1 vs. Serena Williams at the semi-finals of the 2016 US Open
After clinching the Cincinnati Masters, Pliskova’s ranking shot up to 11 and she was seeded 10th at the US Open. The Czech began her tournament with a straight sets victory over local wildcard Sofia Kenin following which she defeated Paraguayan qualifier Montserrat Gonzalez in the second round.
Pliskova defeated 17th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. In the fourth round, Pliskova came from a set down to defeat two-time champion and 6th seed Venus Williams, thus reaching her first ever Grand Slam quarter-final.
At the quarter-finals, Pliskova defeated Croat Ana Konjuh to set up a semi-final against top seed and tournament favourite Serena Williams. Pliskova breezed past Williams 6-2 in the first set. The top seed put up a tough fight in the second set but the 10th seeded Czech held her nerve and edged out the American 7-5 to reach her maiden Grand Slam final. Pliskova’s win meant that Angelique Kerber would become the WTA No. 1 following the completion of the tournament.
Pliskova went on to lose the final to Kerber in three sets despite winning the second set and being a break up in the final set.