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Can Karolina Pliskova Finally Achieve Grand Slam Success in 2019?

Surprisingly, Karolina Pliskova is yet to secure a Grand Slam title during the course of her professional career. The Czech-born 27-year-old acheived one of her many goals when she became the 23rd player to rise to the top of the rankings in 2017, yet despite reaching the final of the 2016 US Open, she has so far fallen short in each of the four major events on the tennis calendar.

Pliskova has been one of the sports most consistent performers on the WTA tour in recent years, and she rarely finds herself ranked outside of the top ten. Despite reaching the semi-finals of the French Open in 2017, her game hasn’t always been suited to the slower clay courts, however her recent victory over Johanna Konta in the Italian Open suggests that she has the tools to challenge at Roland Garros this year. As of May 20th, Pliskova has been priced up at 14/1 by Betway to secure her first Grand Slam title in Paris, and she will certainly arrive in the French capital full of confidence. She admitted by she was left in disbelief following her success in Rome, and the Monte Carlo resident also told reporters that she wasn’t “super confident” going into the tournament. She described her recent achievement as “a little bit of miracle for me,” and will be buoyed by her unexpected triumph. Pliskova’s game is very consistent, and she hit 21 winners against the Brit, committing a paltry 14 errors en route to her achievement.

WTA Titles

Despite a dearth of Grand Slam glory, she has managed to secure 13 career titles, with her triumph in the 2016 Cincinnati Masters one of the more eyecatching successes on the list. The tournament, which is more commonly known as the Western and Southern Open, is the second largest summer tennis event in the US, and it always attracts a hugely competitive field. Twelve months later, she went into the Rogers Cup at the top of the draw, but despite reaching the quarter-final stage of the competition, she was unable to make the final four.

She has also enjoyed success in Doha, Prague, Stuttgart, Eastbourne and at the Aegon Open in Nottingham. More recently, she has tasted victory in Tokyo, and continued where she left off at the beginning of 2019. She secured her second title in Brisbane by overpowering Lesia Tsurenko 4-6, 7-5 6-2, but survived a scare along the way. The Ukrainian found herself serving for the match, but was unable to hold her nerve, making three unforced errors to hand her opponent a significant lifeline. Her early season triumphs helped her climb back up the WTA rankings, and she will be keen to add futher titles to her portfolio this summer.

She has also enjoyed success in doubles, collecting trophies in Nuremburg, Hong Kong and Birmingham.

 Grand Slam Record

Prior to 2016, Pliskova had rarely made it beyond the second round of any Grand Slam, but she did end the year on a high with a run to the final of the US Open. She arrived in New York unbeaten in her last 11 matches, and had also amassed a WTA-tour leading 447 aces, but despite her recent run, she was unable to outlast Angelique Kerber, who wrapped up her second Grand Slam title of the year at Flushing Meadows.

Since that defeat, the Czech has made it to the last eight in each her last three appearances at the Australian Open, and she also progressed to the final four of the French Open in 2017, despite never looking entirely comfortable on the surface.

Wimbledon has been a constant source of frustration for the 27-year-old, and as of May 2019, she has never made it beyond the fourth round of the iconic grass-court event. Despite her lack of progress at SW19, her game is very much suited to the grass courts, and she’s suffered just seven defeats in her last 20 outings on this surface.

Will She Break Her Duct in 2019?

Although she has been remarkably consistent throughout her entire career, Pliskova is playing some of her best tennis. She is currently third in the WTA race, and is clearly enjoying her time on the tour.

She is now coached by Conchita Martinez, and that change of personnel does appear to have spurred her on, and triggered an improvement in her overall play. The Spaniard reached the final of each of the four Grand Slams, and enjoyed notable success at Wimbledon during her distinguished playing career, and it is the second time that the pair have teamed up.

Her recent success in Rome suggests that she can progress to the latter stages of the French Open once more, whilst she will also be determined to end her barren run in West London. However, her powerful serve, and accurate serve-and-volley game will surely thrive at the US Open. The New York hard courts are ideal for Pliskova’s forceful game, and her persistance will surely prompt errors from her opponents.

The Czech is one of the best all-round performers on the tour, and based on recent evidence, it surely won’t be long until she clinches her first Grand Slam.

French Open 2019: Men’s and Women’s Draw Preview and Analysis

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2019 Roland-Garros tournament.

Welcome to Paris for the second big prize, Roland-Garros, on the 12-month rainbow ride that is this 2019 tennis season.

By the time you read this, you’ll have seen a few matches under way already—the Roland-Garros schedule says that Angelique Kerber will battle Anastasia Potapova on Court Philippe-Chatrier to kick things off, so good luck to the German as you’ll see from our predictions below.

We’ve learned a thing or two from the previous run through a short and sweet clay court season and now that the draws have been released, we’ll try to put things in perspective.

From what we can tell, both draws are ultimately pretty satisfying. They tend to be when it’s a Grand Slam, sure, but we feel like they’re especially juicy this year. (Then again, maybe we say that every year too. Oh well.) In keeping up with our tradition of previewing the main draws of every event that’s “kind of a big deal” in importance, or even more, let’s see if we can pick the Paris quarterfinalists correctly for both men and women.

Women’s draw

The WTA draw is pretty wide-open, with a few of the favourites either injured or not playing all that well and giving way to a number of other players to try their hand at it.

The first section is nominally Naomi Osaka’s to lose but, though she righted the ship a little bit after a rough post-Australian Open stretch, all eyes will be on Serena Williams. We shouldn’t expect much, if anything, from the great champion, so let’s hedge our bets here and say she makes the final eight, but not more than that.

Meanwhile, Simona Halep arrives in Paris in form and as the defending champion. She’s got the best odds to win the French Open Women’s Singles. The pressure is on her, and she hasn’t always responded well in the past when this was the case, but for what it’s worth we believe in her here. We’re eager to see what young American Amanda Anisimova can do: if she’s supposedly the real deal, she’ll manage to grab a handful of wins in Paris in what’s a tricky, but fair, main draw.

Which Sloane Stephens will show up? We’re choosing to believe in the American who made a run to the 2018 Roland-Garros semifinal rather than the one who hadn’t made it past the fourth round before then, but we’re not entirely confident. As for her quarterfinalist opponent, let’s go with another player who’s accustomed us to high highs and low lows in Belinda Bencic.

Has anyone played as well in 2019 as Karolina Pliskova, the French Open second-seed and favourite to emerge from a fairly okay bottom section and with already two titles to her name this season against only seven defeats? Dear reader, the answer is no.

Quarterfinals: Naomi Osaka over Serena Williams; Simona Halep over Anett Kontaveit; Belinda Bencic over Sloane Stephens; Karolina Pliskova over Angelique Kerber

Semifinals: Simona Halep over Naomi Osaka; Karolina Pliskova over Belinda Bencic

Final: Simona Halep over Karolina Pliskova

Men’s draw

On the men’s side of things, there’s a large boogeyman overseeing everything but how well he does perform remains to be seen. And in any case, we’re likely to see another case of “same old, same old.”

In the top section, Novak Djokovic was dealt what’s ultimately a fairly easy draw. Sure, there are tricky opponents here and there, notably a likely fourth rounder against mirror image Borna Coric, but the Serb should emerge unscathed here.

The second section of the men’s draw has everyone’s favourite non-Big 3 contender in Dominic Thiem, and we wish nothing but to him as well as to see him battle Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals if their match resembles their epic 2017 US Open battle.

Moving to the lower half, everyone will understandably be looking at Roger Federer, who will compete in his first French Open since 2015. But we’re seeing tiny Diego Schwartzman shocking the world before the Swiss has a chance to impress. As for the fourth section, there is Rafael Nadal looming, ready to jump on any poor fool standing in his way as his march to another French Open title continues.

Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Fabio Fognini; Dominic Thiem over Juan Martin del Potro; Diego Schwartzman over Stan Wawrinka; Rafael Nadal over Daniil Medvedev

Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Dominic Thiem; Rafael Nadal over Diego Schwartzman

Final: Rafael Nadal over Novak Djokovic

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG