Will Karolina Pliskova Win A Grand Slam?

ANTWERP, September 23, 2016
by Gavin Mair

Karolina Pliskova’s upset win over dominant WTA matriarch Serena Williams to secure a place in a first Grand Slam final propelled the Czech into consideration as a top level player.

In defeat to 2016’s star Angelique Kerber the right-handed twin sister of Kristyna fell just short of lifting a maiden major title, but based on the trends of previous Grand Slam finalists still active on the WTA tour, will Pliskova become a consistent threat at the 4 biggest tournaments of the season?

Short window and Finalist Struggle

Player 1st Final and Result Slams until next final
Karolina Pliskova 2016 US Open F NA
Angelique Kerber 2016 Aus Open W 2. 2016 US Open W
Roberta Vinci 2015 US Open F 4 and counting
Garbine Muguruza 2015 Wimbledon F 3. 2016 French Open W
Lucie Safarova 2015 French Open F 6 and counting
Eugenie Bouchard 2014 Wimbledon F 9 and counting
Simona Halep 2014 French Open F 10 and counting
Dominika Cibulkova 2014 Aus Open F 11 and counting
Sabine Lisicki 2013 Wimbledon F 13 and counting
Agnieszka Radwanska 2012 Wimbledon F 17 and counting
Sara Errani 2012 French Open F 18 and counting
Victoria Azarenka 2012 Aus Open W 3. 2012 US Open F
Petra Kvitova 2011 Wimbledon W 12. 2014 Wimbledon W
Francesca Schiavone 2010 French Open W 4. 2011 French Open F
Sam Stosur 2010 French Open F 6. 2011 US Open W
Caroline Wozniacki 2009 US Open F 20. 2014 US Open F
Jelena Jankovic 2008 US Open F 32 and counting
Ana Ivanovic 2007 French Open F 3. 2008 Aus Open F
Svetlana Kuznetsova 2004 US Open W 6. 2006 French Open F
Maria Sharapova 2004 Wimbledon W 9. 2006 US Open W
Serena Williams 1999 US Open W 8. 2001 US Open F
Venus Williams 1997 US Open F 11. 2000 Wimbledon W

The player’s that go on to feature in a second Grand Slam final tend to do this within 3 years and 12 Grand Slam tournaments.  The only exception being the consistent Caroline Wozniacki who followed up a 2009 US Open Final appearance, with a repeat final defeat in 2014.

Of players that failed to win in their first final, 5 of 15 went on to reach another final and with the exception of Wozniacki again, all did so within the 3 year period.  The other 4 finalists went on to win a Slam.

Early Follow Up?

Player Next Slam Result Following Year Slam
Karolina Pliskova N/A N/A
Angelique Kerber 2016 French Open 1R N/A
Roberta Vinci 2016 Aus Open 3R 2016 US Open QF
Garbine Muguruza 2015 US Open 2R 2016 Wimbledon 2R
Lucie Safarova 2015 Wimbledon 4R 2016 French Open 3R
Eugenie Bouchard 2014 US Open 4R 2015 US Open 1R
Simona Halep 2014 Wimbledon SF 2015 French Open 1R
Dominika Cibulkova 2014 French Open 3R 2015 Aus Open QF
Sabine Lisicki 2013 US Open 3R 2014 Wimbledon QF
Agnieszka Radwanska 2012 US Open 4R 2013 Wimbledon SF
Sara Errani 2012 Wimbledon 3R 2013 French Open SF
Victoria Azarenka 2012 French Open 4R 2013 Aus Open W
Petra Kvitova 2011 US Open 1R 2012 US Open QF
Francesca Schiavone 2010 Wimbledon 1R 2011 French Open F
Sam Stosur 2010 Wimbledon 1R 2011 French Open 3R
Caroline Wozniacki 2010 Aus Open 4R 2010 US Open SF
Jelena Jankovic 2009 Aus Open 4R 2009 US Open 2R
Ana Ivanovic 2007 Wimbledon SF 2008 French Open W
Svetlana Kuznetsova 2005 Aus Open QF 2005 US Open 1R
Maria Sharapova 2004 US Open 3R 2005 Wimbledon SF
Serena Williams 2000 US Open 4R 2000 US Open QF
Venus Williams 1998 Aus Open QF 1998 US Open SF

It is very rare that a player backs up their first final appearance with a decent showing in the following Grand Slam with several falling prey to the earliest possible elimination, all but 4 players finding their way to the latter stages of an event, and none reach the final.

At the following year’s slam only 3 players have followed up their debut final with another final appearance at the same event, and in fact it is such a struggle to defend this achievement that 7 players have failed to reach the second week.

Consistent in the latter rounds?

Player Percentage QF Percentage SF
Roberta Vinci 25% 0%
Lucie Safarova 0% 0%
Eugenie Bouchard 11% 0%
Simona Halep 33.33% 22.22%
Dominika Cibulkova 18.18% 0%
Sabine Lisicki 7.69% 0%
Agnieszka Radwanska 11.76% 36.36%
Sara Errani 16.66% 11.11%
Jelena Jankovic 3.12% 3.12%

Of all players that have qualified for one Grand Slam final, only Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska have an impressive hit rate of making either the quarter or semi finals in half of the Grand Slams they play.

These two players are usually higher ranked and their relative success can come in part from the advantage of strong seeding.

For other players it is clear that not only are finals hard to come by, but likewise the opportunity to contest the latter stages of events.

Pliskova: Grand Slam Champion?

Pliskova has a chance, but she is fighting against the odds.

If Pliskova is to reach a second Grand Slam final she must do it within 3 years, otherwise the chances become very slim.

In all likelihood a follow up will not take place in the 2017 Australian Open, and won’t take place at next year’s US Open.

Of players that made a debut final within the 3 year period, Simona Halep has the greatest likelihood to make another.  The Romanian has the best record of reaching the latter stages, and is still within the 3 year period where previously successful players have made an impact.

The Czech was asked the following question after defeat to Kerber,

“Do you think this tournament will be the turning point for you in Grand Slams, where we’ll see you in the quarterfinals, semis, finals, more consistently? Do you think this could be the turning point moment?”

KAROLINA PLISKOVA: Well, I cannot say now. We can talk maybe next year. (Smiling.) After some tournaments I’ll just, you know, don’t think about any other tournaments right now. I just finish US Open. Let’s see how is it gonna be. Maybe something will change; maybe not. I just want to take all the positives from this tournament.

Time will tell what Karolina Pliskova can do.

Gavin Mair is a Scottish sports journalist based in Antwerp.
You can follow his twitter account @gavinnightmair and read his blog.