Former world number one Karolina Pliskova had another consistent season in 2019, racking up four titles this year (the most she has won in a season to date), claiming at least one title on each surface. Pliskova has also made the last four of the year-ending WTA Finals for the third year running, hit the most aces in 2019 and finished third in terms of total wins across all surfaces all year long.
Pliskova went 52-17 in 2019, making it best season to date in terms of win-loss percentage, and second-best, in terms of total wins, to 2017, where she scored 53 wins. The Czech racked up a tally of 13 wins at the Grand Slam events, maintaining her total from 2018. From her first tournament of the year, Brisbane, till Wimbledon, Pliskova was 38-10 and claimed the first three of her four titles of the season during this stretch.
Besides being ranked third for most wins in 2019, Pliskova also finished at third place for most wins on hard courts this year (35 wins), second place for most wins on grass courts (9 wins), and played most three-setters (32 matches), winning 19 of those (third-best in terms of three-set wins percentage).
The Czech has five top-10 wins to her name this year, all coming over top-5 opponents, namely, Simona Halep (twice, in Miami and the WTA Finals, Halep ranked third and fifth on each occassion, respectively), fourth-ranked Kiki Bertens and fifth-ranked Angelique Kerber, both in Eastbourne, and fourth-ranked Bianca Andreescu, at the WTA Finals, thus finishing second to Belinda Bencic in terms of most top-5 wins in 2019.
Pliskova began the year 2019 the same way she began her 2017 season, claiming the title in Brisbane, becoming the third player to win the title multiple times, after Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. Then, a run to her first semifinal appearance at the Australian Open saw her lose a three-setter to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.
After Fed Cup duty, where the Czech Republic was upset by Romania, Pliskova extended her streak of making at least the quarterfinals in 2019 to five tournaments with runs to the quarterfinals (Dubai and Indian Wells) and a runner-up finish to Ashleigh Barty in Miami.
She rebounded after a slow start to clay season with a title run in Rome, the equal-biggest title of her career to date, after Cincinnati in 2016, with a defeat of surprise finalist Johanna Konta in the final. Her next significant result came in Eastbourne where she claimed her second title here, her third of 2019, and followed up with a third consecutive appearance in the last 16 of Wimbledon where she narrowly lost to younger compatriot Karolina Muchova.
Pliskova continued her consistent string of results, making back-to-back quarterfinals in Toronto and Cincinnati, the last 16 of the US Open, where she lost to Konta, and then soared to her fourth title of the year, at the inaugural Zhengzhou Open. She finished the year at the WTA Finals once more and made the semifinals where she fell to eventual champion Barty.
Pliskova had dry spells in 2019, first being the start of the clay season, where in Stuttgart, as the defending champion, she lost to Azarenka in her opener. A semifinalist in Madrid last year, the Czech was not successful here this time around as she was sent crashing out in the second round in the hands of Kateryna Kozlova.
Pliskova also lost in the second round of Birmingham to twin sister Kristyna in a deciding tiebreak. The Asian swing after her Zhengzhou title win was not as fruitful for Pliskova as the Czech was the victim of upset wins to Amanda Anisimova and Jelena Ostapenko, in the second round of Wuhan and first round of Beijing, respectively.
Out of 19 tournament appearances this year, Pliskova made at least quarterfinals in 11 of them, winning four titles (Brisbane, Rome, Eastbourne and Zhengzhou) and was a runner-up once (Miami). Her only semifinal losses came at the Australian Open and the WTA Finals.
She was a quarterfinalist in Dubai, Indian Wells, Toronto and Cincinnati. The Czech also appeared in the second week of the Wimbledon Championships and the US Open, falling in the fourth round on both occasions.
Pliskova’s five early losses of 2019 came in the second rounds at Stuttgart (where she had a bye in the first round), Madrid, Birmingham and Wuhan, her sole defeat in an opening-round stage of a tournament in 2019 being Beijing. She also suffered her sole first-week exit at the Grand Slams in third round of the French Open where she lost to eventual quarterfinalist Petra Martic.
Pliskova has shown that she has ability to produce consistent results week in week out, having been continuously ranked in the top 10 for the past three years. Moreover, she possesses a big and dangerous game, notably, a reliable serve that can get her out of trouble.
However, what is missing from the former world number one’s resume is the elusive maiden Grand Slam title. The Czech came close in the final of the 2016 US Open, her first Grand Slam final, where she took Kerber to three sets but narrowly lost. She has yet to make a Grand Slam final since but that result was the catalyst for the turnaround of her overall results at the Grand Slam level, having been unable to make a Grand Slam second week in her first 17 appearances prior.
The Czech will usher in the new decade with a new face in her coaching team, Daniel Vallverdu, who will work alongside former WTA player Olga Savchuk, whom the Czech has been working with since fall of this year. The Venezuelan’s past tutelage includes the likes of Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro, Grigor Dimitrov and Pliskova’s compatriot, Tomas Berdych.
With new coaches and fresh input, is Pliskova finally destined to take her career to even greater heights, perhaps sealing her first Olympic medal and also, the said first Grand Slam title that has eluded her career thus far, in 2020?