Red-hot Pliskova on track for grand slam success
TENNIS: Few who watched Czech Karolina Pliskova flirt with perfection on Saturday night would bet against her becoming the latest Brisbane International women's champion to quickly become a grand slam title winner.
Pliskova, the US Open runner-up, barged into the top-five rankings by burying unseeded Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-0 6-3 before a subdued but vastly impressed Pat Rafter Arena crowd.
Three times in its first eight editions, the Brisbane International's women's champion has gone on to become a first-time grand slam title winner.
Pliskova, 24, lost just five points, incredibly, in a 19-minute first-set avalanche, hitting 12 winners and four aces.
Cornet, ranked No.41, was powerless to stop Pliskova win her first trophy in her first tournament with new coach David Kotyza, who guided Petra Kvitova to two Wimbledon championships.
"She was amazing and I'm sure she will win a grand slam (title) very soon,” said Cornet, an accomplished enough player to have beaten Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2014, one of three wins she achieved over Williams that year.
"I'm disappointed. I wish I'd have done better. I'm proud I made it to the final.”
One of the biggest servers in women's tennis, Pliskova's main impediment to future success is to improve her movement.
Kvitova's 2011 Brisbane title was followed by her first Wimbledon six months later, Li Na's 2008 final win gained her knowledge on the way to the 2011 French Open and Victoria Azarenka's 2009 breakthrough triumph came three years before her first Australian Open crown.
When the women's tournament was played at the Gold Coast, Justine Henin's 2001 win served notice of her impending first majors, in 2003.
In latter years, Serena Williams (twice) and Maria Sharapova have been seasoned winners of the Brisbane final.
With the points from her seventh WTA Tour title, Pliskova will move one place in the rankings list to a career-high No.5 spot, supplanting former Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova.
Pliskova's sprint towards victory made light of the advantage Cornet had in receiving a retirement within 28 minutes from her semi-final opponent Garbine Muguruza.
Cornet beat two seeds, Elena Vesnina and Cibulkova, previously so was an entirely deserving finalist, if a thoroughly mismatched one last night.
The Frenchwoman's main consolation - other than a $102,867 runner-up's cheque - is a rankings rise to No.32, which will give her a seeding for the Australian Open, which starts next week.
Early last month, Fed Cup teammates Pliskova and Kvitova announced they would be effectively swapping coaches.
Jiri Vanek, who coached Pliskova since 2014, would coach Kvitova, an association thwarted by hand wounds she suffered in a knife attack at her apartment last month.
Kotyza moved to head up Pliskova's team after seven years employed by Kvitova.
Pliskova had spoken warmly of Kvitova and her conviction that her stricken compatriot would be strong enough mentally to make a successful comeback later this year.
Pliskova's straight-sets win over world No.14 Elina Svitolina, who beat both Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber last year, in Friday's semi-finals indicated firmly that the Czech is ready for more formidable opposition than Cornet at the Australian Open.
Kerber, Williams and Cibulkova were among a raft of top-10 players who failed to reach the semi-finals at their WTA tournaments in Oceania and China, giving Pliskova extra confidence heading into the Australian Open.
Cornet held three service games in the second set, but did not reach a break point in the match.
THE COURIER MAIL