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Timeline: How Karolina Pliskova became world No. 1

Jul 17, 2017
written by: Kristina Borojevic
written by: Kristina Borojevic
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This week Karolina Pliskova will officially be ranked as the women’s world no. 1 player. Pliskova is the 23rd woman to achieve the ranking and, believe it or not, she is the first woman representing the Czech Republic to become no. 1 in the world.

How did Pliskova become the top player? Let’s break down her past 12 months and see how she went from no. 14 to no. 1.

Late 2016 boom

In July at Coupe Rogers, Karolina Pliskova was no. 14 in the world. She lost to no. 5 seed and eventual champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3 in the third round. Following Coupe Rogers, Pliskova opted to skip the Olympic Games in Rio.

At the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Pliskova won her biggest career title to date. She defeated three Top 10 players – Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbiñe Muguruza and Angelique Kerber – in her title run. Pliskova’s 6-3, 6-1 victory over Kerber in the final denied the German the no. 1 ranking at the time.

At the year’s last Grand Slam, Pliskova backed-up her title run in Cincinnati by making her first Major final at the U.S. Open. In her run, Pliskova became the eighth woman since 1997 to defeat both Venus and Serena Williams in the same tournament. Pliskova and Kerber faced off in another final – this one going the way Kerber, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. This time the German grasped the no. 1 ranking.

Pliskova’s run to the U.S. Open final put her in the WTA Top 10 for the first time.

The Czech ended her 2016 season with her first appearance in the WTA Finals and helping the Czech Republic win a historic 10th Fed Cup title.

Winning start to 2017

It was a winning start to 2017 for Pliskova – the Czech held a nine match win streak in January, including a title in Brisbane and quarter-final finish at the Australian Open. Her hot start to the season put her in the WTA Top 3 for the first time in her career.

Pliskova enjoyed much success during the early season hard court swing.

After picking up the title in Brisbane, Pliskova defeated four Top 30 players to win her second title of the season in Doha. She defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-4 to win her eighth career title.

Over in Indian Wells and Miami, Pliskova finished as a semi-finalist at both events. Her early results on the hard courts secured her a Top 3 ranking ahead of the clay season.

Strong finish to a bad start

Through her first three clay tournaments – Stuttgart, Prague, Madrid – Pliskova suffered early exits to Laura Siegemund, Camila Giorgi and Anastasija Sevastova respectively.

Pliskova managed to string together two consecutive wins for the first time in a month at the BNL Internazionali d’Italia in Rome before getting ousted by eventual champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 7-6(9) in the quarter-finals.

Roland Garros was the venue for Pliskova’s big breakthrough and the tournament that allowed her to eventually contend for the world no. 1 ranking. Prior to 2017, Pliskova had never made is past the second round in her first five Roland Garros main draw appearances.

In 2016 she made a first round exit to world no. 108 Shelby Rogers. In 2017 Pliskova was seeded no. 2 and made a run to the semi-finals.

Becoming world no. 1

The grass season would prove to be a winner-take-all scenario between Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova.

The turning point came in Eastbourne where Pliskova defeated Caroline Wozniacki for a second time in a final this year. The 470 points Pliskova earned from her title would mean she held a favourable position in the rankings ahead of Wimbledon. With the 2016 points taken off, and therefore Kerber dropping her finalist points and Halep losing her quarter-final points, Pliskova had little to defend and everything to gain.

Heading into Wimbledon Pliskova was the tentative world no. 1. The farther she made it in the draw, the tougher it would be for Kerber or Halep to catch up to her.

Pliskova ultimately fell in the second round to Magdalena Rybarikova, but the loss did not hurt Pliskova’s chances at becoming the new no. 1 given that she also lost in the same round in the year prior. The only way she would not become the new top ranked player would be if Halep made the semi-finals, Kerber made the final or one of those two won the title. Neither Kerber nor Halep progressed past the quarter-finals.

Karolina Pliskova is 25-years-old and holds a 40-10 record so far in 2017. Her serve is the best in the world – she’s hit the most aces this year (286) and is holding 78% of her service games. She is the youngest player to debut at no. 1 since Victoria Azarenka in 2012 (23-years-old).

Karolina Pliskova will play her first tournament as the world no. 1 at Rogers Cup in Toronto. Don’t miss out – get your tickets now!