See you Simona! The Romanian powerhouse has crashed and burned in the first round of the WTA Mutua Madrid, going down against Alize Cornet. But that's not what I'm here to talk about this week.
To be fair, it was something of an understated week on the women's tour last week, failing to register too much interest, sandwiched as it was between big WTA Premier Mandatory events.
However, there was one big noteworthy story that deserves attention and that was the win at the Prague Open by Karolina Pliskova. Why is that worth of such focus? Well, because this tournament proved a big point about the rising Czech star, namely that she is on a rapid upward curve and she won her hometown event going in as top seed. Granted, it wasn't the toughest of fields for Pliskova, who faced the likes of Lucie Hradecka over three sets in the final, but it did show that she can handle pressure.
It was the fourth WTA title of Pliskova's career and she held off Hradecka's barrage of aces to bounce back from losing the opening set to pick up the crown. Few may have noticed her rapid climb up the ladder in the Road To Singapore this season, where only Serena Williams, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova are outdoing her in the important points race. So after an immensely positive start to the season, just how far can she go?
She’ll be in the top ten in the world at some point, little doubt about that as she has climbed up to 13th already. If it wasn't for the recent form of German duo Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic, along with Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro, then Pliskova would really be knocking on the door of the top ten. But do not doubt that she will get there sooner rather than later. She is the seventh highest earner on the WTA Tour this season and again, if you take the overbearing power triumvirate of Williams, Halep and Sharapova out of the picture, then Pliskova's form stands out.
What is nice to look back at is the fact that this just hasn't been a run of explosive form from the start of the season. There has been a gradual rise and rise in her game which goes back to last season when she picked up two titles (Seoul and Linz) while making it to three other finals during the season. That really was her breakthrough year, although her first title came at Kuala Lumpur in 2013 catapulting her into the top 100 for the first time. A season later and she had finished 2014 just outside of the top twenty.
That is how to put it all together, and she has been doing so again this season, losing the Sydney final to Petra Kvitova and then the Dubai final to Simona Halep, before going on to land that pressure win in front of her home support in Prague last week. If you throw in a quarter final in Miami and a semi final in Antwerp, it's been one heck of a season from the rising Czech star. There are a few kinks in her game to work out of course, primarily focus, as she allows herself to be taken on some unnecessarily bumpy rides in matches.
However, her win over qualifier Hradecka in the all-Czech final in Prague saw Pliskova take a WTA-leading 28 match wins on the tour this season, two ahead of even Halep. With Halep now resting her back while Pliskova continues on in Madrid, the Czech extended her lead even further. How much further can she go?