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Karolina Pliskova wins a warm-up event, looks ahead to Melbourne

Matt Zemek

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Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports

There is nothing wrong with winning warm-up tournaments before majors. Roger Federer does it in Halle before Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic win the clay Masters before Roland Garros and the hardcourt Masters before the U.S. Open.

The Big 3 aside, winning a tournament is what we’re all here for, regardless of status in the sport. That is the point of tennis competition: to fly to a city, book a hotel room, and stay at that hotel for a full week because you kicked everyone else’s butt.

Kudos to Karolina Pliskova, who flew to Brisbane and stayed there the whole week because she outclassed everyone else and lifted a trophy. She beat quality players: Alison Riske, Naomi Osaka, and then Madison Keys in Sunday’s final.

It’s another title and another strong result for Pliskova, who will be the No. 2 seed at the 2020 Australian Open, a sign of her consistency relative to the rest of the WTA Tour. The former World No. 1 is not too far away from regaining that No. 1 spot.

It’s weird that Pliskova doesn’t have a major title attached to her name just yet, much like a player who finally chased down that major — Caroline Wozniacki — and is about to retire from tennis.

Pliskova hopes that before she retires — whenever that may be — she will be able to notch the one accomplishment which has eluded her to this point in time.

Does the fact that Pliskova yet again won a warm-up tournament before a major mean that she is somehow uniquely doomed in Australia? Not at all. What matters most in her campaign in Melbourne is that she needs to avoid Serena Williams in a possible quarterfinal.

If Serena and Osaka meet in a quarterfinal and Pliskova can draw a more favorable matchup, that would matter more than most factors one could imagine.

Nevertheless, the question will be asked to Pliskova in the coming days: “You’re so good at winning the events right before majors. How can you take the next step this time?” Something to that effect will certainly be thrown in Pliskova’s direction by the press. It is the obvious question.

Just as obviously, if Pliskova knew how to bottle up her “just before a major” tennis and apply it to the majors, she would have done it by now. There is no magic answer other than to relax into the zen focus of competition and seeing the ball.

Pliskova has to block out the distractions and shed the baggage that clearly weighed on her at Wimbledon last year, which was her golden chance to break through. Easier said than done.

Pliskova’s struggle makes us appreciate the iconic champions who have blocked out the distractions and carried pressure gracefully on so many occasions.

Pliskova’s quality tennis makes us appreciate the possibility that this Australian Open in Melbourne could indeed be different.

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Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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