Confessional Cart: Karolina Pliskova's WILD player party

When word spread before the Australian Open that the balls being used favored flat, hard hitters, it was a very good sign for Karolina Pliskova. The 30-year-old’s missile-like power baseline game is as rotation-free as you’ll see in contemporary pro tennis.

“The timing, sometimes you just feel it,” the 30th seed said Monday following a 6-0, 6-4 fourth-round win over 23rd-seeded Shaui Zhang, in which the Czech struck 33 winners. “You feel you hitting clean. . . I played quite solid, not with big gaps of, like, not having that focus there or too many mistakes.”

How fortunate that Pliskova has been the beneficiary of a break in her favor. Just over a year ago, the opposite was the case. While working out in a gym, Pliskova accidentally broke a bone in her right arm. The injury kept her off the tour for the first two months of the year.

“It was tough because people who follow tennis or me, they know I don't really have injuries,” Pliskova told WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen last spring in Charleston. “Even if I feel something, I still play. I never skip anything, not even practice or a tournament. The only break I had was this Covid break and I don't think that helped me. This injury was a bit more serious because I could not use my arm. I had a cast for a month or two. So it was quite a difficult time.”


Pliskova's press sessions are refreshingly honest.

Pliskova's press sessions are refreshingly honest.

Such is the harsh reality of tennis that time off triggered a series of tumbles. In 2021, she reached the finals of three prominent events in Rome, Wimbledon and Montreal. But only twice in 2022 did she advance to the semis of a tour stop.

“It just took me some while because I also started pretty much still with the pain,” she said in Melbourne. “I was not 100 percent ready when I started to play. Then of course was clay, grass, no points, a bit of a rough start last year.”

After finishing ranked inside the Top 6 six for six straight years, Pliskova had dropped to No. 32 by the end of 2022.

But here Pliskova is, back in the quarters of a major for the 11th time. She’ll next play No. 45 Magda Linette, who upset fourth-seeded Caroline Garcia in the round of 16. Pliskova leads this head-to-head 7-2. Linette won their most recent encounter, a 6-4, 6-1 victory last fall at the Billie Jean King Cup. In the match prior to that, played in the first round of the 2022 US Open, Pliskova emerged the victor by the thinnest of margins, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (8).


Pliskova has already accomplished so much. In the summer of 2017, she held the number one ranking for eight weeks. She’s also won 16 WTA titles and reached two Grand Slam singles finals. Interestingly, those runs came five years apart, Pliskova losing a pair of three-setters, first to Angelique Kerber at the 2016 US Open, and then the 2021 Wimbledon final to Ash Barty.

Following the loss to Barty, Pliskova addressed the importance of coming to terms with defeat. “But, I mean, believe me, I think all the big champions and all the big names, they need to learn this,” she said in London that day. “They need to know how to also, like, lose. In the end somebody has to lose.”

Maybe this time it won’t be her. On her WTA web page, Pliskova lists the mystical, philosophical Paulo Coelho as her favorite writer. One wonders if Pliskova is familiar with these words from Coelho: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

This year Down Under, many of the favorites have been eliminated earlier than anticipated. The balls have aided Pliskova’s quest, and so far, she has played excellent tennis, not losing a set in four matches. Perhaps, more good bounces will continue to come Pliskova’s way.