As we know, over the past decade, few men have had the chance to lift a major title due to the dominance of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. In the current ATP top 10, only three players have tasted Grand Slam success – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
This is not the case in the WTA, where there hasn’t been a truly dominant force since Serena Williams’s golden 2014-2015 period. A significant reduction in the American’s time on court, particularly due to pregnancy, has opened the majors up to the rest of the tour and they have duly feasted.
The WTA top 10 now contains seven major winners in Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka, Angie Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens and Williams herself.
I doubt there would be much argument if I said that the best player still in search of a first grand slam is Karolina Pliskova.
Since she first broke into the top 10 in August 2015, the Czech has become one of the most consistent players on Tour. Over the past four years, Pliskova has reached 20 finals and won 11 of them.
It took the big server some time to translate results from the smaller events into the majors, but the 27-year-old is now a steady performer at the Slams.
Alongside her runner-up showing at the 2016 US Open, Pliskova has two major semi-finals and four quarter-finals on her CV. All of those good results helped her ascend to world no.1 in July 2017. Ash Barty, the 2019 player of the year, currently holds top spot but could be displaced if Pliskova makes the semis or better this fortnight.
Interestingly though, Wimbledon is the one major where Pliskova has struggled.
In seven previous main draw appearances at the All England Club, Pliskova has failed to make it past the fourth round.
From 2013 to 2017, she lost in the second round and last year fell in the round of 16 to Kiki Bertens.
Pliskova’s Wimbledon strife is inexplicable really as she has shown herself to be a superb performer on grass. She made her first final on the surface in 2015 and has gone on to capture a title in Nottingham and two in Eastbourne.
Her most recent success on England’s south coast came just a week ago. In what she described as a ‘perfect’ week, Pliskova only dropped 19 games across five matches – that included impressive wins over Bertens (semis) and Kerber (final).
Backed by a coaching team that includes 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez, Pliskova has carried her grass court form into the Championships, but it hasn’t been an easy path thus far. She won the first two rounds in straight sets, but her third match was a dicey affair.
Pitted against the one-of-a-kind bundle of spins Hsieh Su-Wei, it took three sets to get the job done. Hsieh had beaten Pliskova before, so victory in such an edgy encounter should boost confidence.
Czech women are a regular fixture in the upper echelons of tennis, so it should be no surprise that a compatriot awaits Pliskova in the fourth round. Her opponent, 22-year-old Karolina Muchova, is a really impressive talent who boasts a wonderful forehand. The world no.68 has had an impressive run so far at Wimbledon and hasn’t dropped a set.
Going into this battle, Pliskova will take comfort from their head-to-head record and her own serving form.
The Karolinas have faced each other just once on Tour (Australian Open 2019) and Pliskova comfortably won 6-3 6-2. Pliskova has always had a devastating serve and is current ace leader at the Championships with 29. It would be a particularly painful loss for Pliskova to be dumped out by a rising compatriot, so I’m sure she will be vigilant.
If Pliskova can get past Muchova, she may get the difficult obstacle of world no.8 Elina Svitolina in the quarters.
From there, Simona Halep or breakout star Coco Gauff could stand between her and a second major final.