Monday, 4 March 2013

Karolina grabs title

LTAM president Tan Sri Abdul Razak Latiff (right) and BMW CEO Dr Gerhard Pils present the trophy and mock cheque to Karolina Pliskova after winning the BMW Malaysian Open singles title yesterday. Pic by Goh Thean Howe

CZECH Karolina Pliskova has finally made her presence felt on the WTA Tour.

The unseeded Karolina, who had never been beyond the quarter-finals of a tour event, bounced back from a first set blemish to overcome American wildcard Bethanie Mattek-Sands 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the singles final of the WTA BMW Malaysian Open yesterday.

"I am delighted to win my first career title in Kuala Lumpur. I must thank my mother, Martina, for urging me on after I lost the first set badly," said Karolina at Royal Selangor Golf Club yesterday.

"I play a lot of doubles but now I love singles more. Bethanie was playing much better than me in the opening set as she was retrieving my serves well. However, I served a lot better in the second and went on to win the title."

The win will definitely give a huge boost to Karolina's tennis career. A former Australian Open junior champion, the World No 127 has been struggling to make a perfect transition from junior to senior tennis on the tour since turning professional in 2009.

Karolina, ranked ninth in the Czech Republic, turns 21 with her twin sister, Kristyna, on March 21 and her 200th win as a professional yesterday will be a perfect impending gift for the youngster.

The right-handed player, however, failed to gain a good start in the opening set as she had no answer to Bethanie's efficient play and was broken three times. Bethanie won it in only 23 minutes.

However, Karolina, a winner of nine ITF singles titles, played aggressively in the second and both players held serve before the Czech broke the 12th game to level proceedings.

The third set was halted for 40 minutes at 1-1 due to the rain before play resumed with Karolina immediately hitting the right chord to break Bethanie in the sixth game before sealing the match with an ace to claim victory in 106 minutes.

The aggressive Karolina was dominant, firing 10 aces and hitting 78 winners. She won 67 per cent of points behind her first serve compared to Bethanie's 57 per cent.

Karolina earned her biggest cheque of US$40,000 (RM124,000) while Bethanie, who appeared in three finals before, received US$20,000 (RM62,000). She is projected to surpass her career-high ranking of 107 after this win.

Bethanie said: "I won the first set but in the second, she started serving well and I couldn't break her. I am very happy with the way I played this week."

The Malaysian Open is quickly gaining reputation as a tournament for upcoming players to win their first tour title.

It has produced three first-time winners, also comprising Russian Alisa Kleybanova, who won in 2010 and Taiwanese Hsieh Su Wei last year, in four editions.