By Luck Or Chance, Pliskova Consistent At Start Of Season

Karolina Pliskova (photo: @KaPliskova/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, January 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Karolina Pliskova has won a singles title in the first week of the season in three of the last four years, going 16-1. She lifted trophies in Brisbane in 2017, 2019 and, again, last year. Whether by luck or by chance, that’s consistency.

Now, the big-serving, World No. 6 from the Czech Republic enters her first tournament of 2021 as the third seed in the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open whose main draw begins on Wednesday. The WTA 500-series outdoor hard-court event was added to this year’s schedule as a replacement for the Brisbane International. It’s packed with four Top 10 and seven Top 20 players, including Pliskova, who will face 71st-ranked Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the found round.

Pliskova’s pathway to another first-week title could include playing 16th seed Donna Vekic of Croatia in the third round, and either No. 8 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic or No. 11 seed Jennifer Brady of the United States in the quarterfinals. Then, No. 2 seed Elina Svitolina is a possible semifinalist while the top seed (in the other half of the draw) Sofia Kenin of the United States would be a formidable opponent in the final next week on January 13.

Meanwhile, Pliskova changed coaches in the off-season, connecting with Sascha Bajin, who previously worked with reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka back when the Japanese star won back-to-back majors at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open. In November, the former World No. 1 Pliskova parted with coach Dani Valverdu, following her 14-8 pandemic-shortened season. Her best results included winning the title at Brisbane and reaching the final in Rome in September, where she lost to Simona Halep.

“I was looking for a new coach who could be full time for me during the year,” Pliskova said Tuesday during a virtual chat with media.“I think I’ve had enough sharing of coaches. So far, I cannot say one bad word about him – maybe, it’s too early to judge. Really, I’ve been enjoying the last couple of weeks. He’s doing everything possible he can do to make me feel good, make our team feel good. I don’t want to be feeling in the heaven, but everything is good.”

Pliskova finished her 2020 season on a two-match losing streak – a second-round loss to Jelena Ostapenko at Roland Garros followed up by a second-round defeat against Veronica Kudermetova at Ostrava. However, when the former World No. 1 was questioned about the direction her season ended, it didn’t seem any cause for concern.

“A two-match losing streak is not so terrible; it doesn’t look so bad to me,” Pliskova told Tennis TourTalk. “The last tournament [Ostrava] I wasn’t really counting because I wasn’t supposed to play. I wasn’t ready to compete at my best level in my home country and, of course, Paris was tough. I was just happy to compete no matter how it went. Many players decided not to play. I was happy to have some matches – a couple of good tournaments, but not many. I think I just need time to get back into the rhythm of tournaments. Not playing for five months had never happened to me. I’ve had a good off-season. Let’s see what happens.”

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