If Karolina Pliskova beats Simona Halep in the Miami Open semifinals, she will make a loud statement, but on a broader level, has there been a more “quietly good” player in women’s tennis than Karolina Pliskova in recent years?
Jelena Ostapenko is an open book of vibrant expressions and gestures. When she won the 2017 French Open, she let everyone know exactly how she felt in her best and her most frustrating moments. Sloane Stephens lit up New York with her megawatt smile and evident ease in front of a camera after winning the U.S. Open. Naomi Osaka is a social media hit who has cultivated a large fan base not just for her tennis, but for her endearing openness and honesty. Serena Williams is…… Serena Williams.
Simona Halep is highly scrutinized by much of the international press and just as widely celebrated in Romania. Petra Kvitova receives ample (and justified) attention for being THIS GOOD after all the traumas she has had to endure. Elina Svitolina has received plenty of admiration for her tennis, but also ample publicity in recent years for other reasons, chiefly the “When will she win the French Open?” question and, in 2019, her new relationship with Gael Monfils.
Go down the list of prominent women’s tennis players who are in the hunt for trophies at important tournaments. Is there a player who has more quietly maintained a place in the top tier of the sport than Pliskova?
Playing second fiddle to Kvitova in the Czech Republic and around the globe is a part of this dynamic, and one would surely not suggest that Pliskova is obscure, but her imprint on the consciousness of the global tennis fan is not as deep as her results might seem to warrant.
Pliskova just keeps parking herself in the quarterfinals and semifinals of important tournaments. She has become reliable in that regard — not an absolute lock, but a player who reaches the latter stages of big tournaments most of the time.
With this Miami semifinal run (still active at the time this article is being written), here are the updated quick stats on Pliskova since the start of the 2017 season. I use the start of 2017 as the relevant reference point because Pliskova transformed her identity as a tennis player late in 2016 by winning Cincinnati and making the U.S. Open final.
Since the start of 2017, at the majors, the Premier Mandatory events, the Premier 5s, and the WTA Finals — the four top groupings of tournaments in women’s tennis — Pliskova has made the quarterfinals or better in 20 of 32 appearances.
The breakdown: 6 of 9 at the majors, 7 of 10 at the Premier Mandatories, 5 of 11 at the Premier 5s (due to a terrible 2018 in which she went 0 for 5), and 2 of 2 at the WTA Finals.
Since we are at the Miami Open, consider this: Pliskova has made the quarterfinals or better in both Indian Wells and Miami every time she has entered these tournaments since the start of 2017: 6 of 6.
All told, since the start of 2017, Pliskova has made nine semifinals at important tournaments: 2 at majors, 4 at Premier Mandatories, 1 at Premier 5s, 2 at the WTA Finals.
Why, in truth, is this very consistent player on a deep and difficult WTA Tour not more prominently known? Here is the central reason, more than anything related to non-tennis considerations: She is 0-8 in her first eight semifinals.
This is an unfortunate fact, but from this unfortunate fact comes a happy and encouraging realization for Karolina Pliskova: If she keeps making quarterfinals and semifinals at important tournaments, one day she won’t have to face Serena Williams or — as she did in Australia — Naomi Osaka in the semifinals. One day, that player will be a more favorable matchup for her.
If she — quoting Roger Federer — “can just keep giving myself chances,” Karolina Pliskova will eventually knock down the door at another tournament of significance.
The culture of consistency is why a quietly good player might soon make a more vocal announcement about her quality on the WTA Tour.