Every week Baseline will select a “Player of the Week.” That athlete may not always win the highest category tournament that week, but perform the best compared to their recent playing history.
One of the leading Wimbledon favorites in the women’s draw solidified her standing last week.
Karolina Pliskova, the world No. 3, sprinted through in Eastbourne to capture her third title of the year and gather momentum for what appears like it will be a serious run at the year’s third Grand Slam.
“I didn't really expect this start of the grass court season,” said Pliskova, who mentioned that she didn’t practice much on grass in the Czech Republic before heading to Eastbourne. “But it gave me a lot of confidence coming to London.”
While the Czech star has made herself a household name by beating Serena Williams to reach last year’s US Open final and then making this year’s French Open semifinal, Pliskova has never advanced past the second round of Wimbledon in five appearances. Last season, she lost in the Eastbourne final before crashing out in the second round at the All England Club.
“Didn't get the trophy but I didn't do well in Wimbledon, so hopefully, I believe it can change with this trophy this year,” Pliskova said, adding that the conditions for the Eastbourne final did not help her chances in London last season. “[It] was really tough and windy. I, a little bit, lost my confidence and feel of the game. And then I played on Monday, so there was not any chance to get used to the court [at Wimbledon].”
This time around, Pliskova looks confident and ready to pursue her first major title. The 25-year-old beat four Top 50 opponents to claim her crown. Two of those players—Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova—are ranked inside the Top 10.
Pliskova had flown somewhat under the radar despite her run in Paris, because she was not widely-considered a threat to win on the red clay, her least-preferred surface. But in Eastbourne, she dropped just one set en route to her victory.
Karolina Pliskova is the first Czech player to win Eastbourne since Jana Novotna back in 1998.— Gaspar Ribeiro Lança (@gasparlanca) July 1, 2017
Novotna then went on to win #Wimbledon.
“Pliskova, we're not really even talking about her, but look how well she did at the French with a big serve and those big groundies, and that's her worst surface,” former world No.1 Chris Evert said in a pre-Wimbledon conference call. “You got to give her a shot really with winning a lot of free points off her serve, if her serve's on.”
Pliskova could very easily see Wozniacki, who she beat 6-4, 6-4 in 81 minutes without dropping serve, again in London — the No. 3 and No. 5 seeds, respectively, were placed in the same quarter of the Wimbledon draw.
But first things first, Pliskova has a first round to contest.
If the big-server plays up to her potential on the slick grass, Wimbledon could very well be her tournament to lose.
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—GRAND SLAM WEEK: Watch Wimbledon Primetime on Tennis Channel, and catch up on the other 2017 Grand Slams on Tennis Channel Plus
—Watch encores from the 2017 French Open and Australian Open on Tennis Channel Plus, including matches like the AO Final showdown between Serena & Venus Williams