Over the next two weeks, the first serve series will be previewing our top male and female players and top returnees as we build up to the first grand slam of the year. We’ll analyze what they’ve got going for them and what they need to do to be successful in 2018.
Karolina Pliskova is a bit of a quagmire. This is another woman who has the unenviable title of WTA #1 to never win a grand slam title. She’s currently ranked World #4, after falling from the pole position she attained during the fall of last year. Pliskova got there by being a model of consistency, consistently making the second week of tournaments and beating the players she was expected to beat. Her power baseline game and her ability to hold her own at net, have proved to be valuable weapons that can turn the tide of the match in her favor.
She also lost the number one ranking by in effect, being a model of inconsistency – especially at the grand slams. She would blow hot at the Australian Open, only to be a dud at Wimbledon. She never really got herself going at the biggest of tournaments and even when she did, she always faltered at the latter stages. It is remarkable that Pliskova got to the quarterfinals of two of the slams and the semifinals of one other in 2017, but with her game, more was expected of her. What is even more remarkable is how she attained the #1 ranking without making a single final at the four biggest tournaments of the year. Her lone final appearance at a slam was all the way back in 2016.
With Pliskova, I do not see many weaknesses in her game, but I do see cracks in her mental fortitude and that’s where she needs to sure up herself. She is naturally blessed to play tennis at a high level but it appears she shrivels at the pressure of crossing that threshold from being a very good player to being a respected champion. Probably even less than Simona Halep or Caroline Wozniacki, Pliskova didn’t look like she truly owned the number one ranking when she got it. She was rather invisible for being the top-ranked women’s player.
It remains to be seen if she’s mentally ready to seize greatness this year. The game is there, but only time will tell if the mind is ready.