Karolina Pliskova was so not looking forward to turning 30, that she spent the year leading up to it fretting over the idea that her 20s were coming to an end.
“I hate it,” she tells me in Rome, bursting into laughter when I asked how she felt about joining the 30+ club.
“But I don’t feel like 30. But it’s just there. So many people actually remind me about that.
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“Even last year when I was still 29, now I regret it so much because I was already thinking like it was 30.
“Now I know it was very different. But I feel young and I still feel the same and crazy.
“As long as I’m feeling good and young in my mind, then that’s important.”
The Czech world No. 6 missed the first two months of this season due to a freak accident in the gym that resulted in a broken arm. Since she returned to action at Indian Wells two months ago, results haven’t really gone her way, but Pliskova is feeling positive and is taking it all in her stride.
“I think as long as the body feels well and physically you feel well, I think you can really play, I don’t want to say five more years because I don’t know what’s going to happen in five years, but I feel good so I’m not even thinking about stopping, if the body holds,” said the two-time Grand Slam finalist.
“Even like Simona [Halep, who is also 30], you can see she’s beating the young girls, so I don’t think the age is really important, it’s more how you feel and if you still believe you can play well then I think age doesn’t really matter.”

'It can help me in the second half of the year' - On detaching her overall mood from her results

Pliskova has won just two singles matches since kicking off her 2022 campaign last March, and she picked up a sixth defeat of the year on Wednesday, putting in a battling performance against recent Madrid semi-finalist Jil Teichmann before falling in three sets.
In the past, having a stretch like this may have deeply affected Pliskova but she has found an upside in turning 30, and that is dealing with setbacks in a more mature manner.
“I think I’m old enough to not always [live] by the results or have the moods, I think I can just separate these things now,” said Pliskova.
“I’m doing my best so everything is not just about results and about tennis. I feel happy, I feel okay, and mainly my wrist is fine so I’m feeling fine. I think if I can hold this kind of like, it’s not like I will be super positive, but this kind of mood, it can help me in the second half of the year.”
Pliskova admits maintaining that mentality of detaching her mood from her results is still something she continues to work on.
“It’s not like it’s like that always, it’s still a process and I can still have like a horrible practice and then of course it kind of affects your day. But at the moment it’s not like all day it’s going to be horrible all day, but maybe it’s just like an hour or so,” she said.
“I think people just sometimes judge too much the result instead of what the people are doing for it.”

Karolina Pliskova

Image credit: Getty Images

Pliskova has a lot of points to defend in the second part of the season, having enjoyed great success during that period last year. She made the final at Wimbledon and Montreal, the semi-finals in Cincinnati and the quarters at the US Open, before finishing 2021 as one of the top eight players competing at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
Before she gets to that second part of the season, Pliskova has one important thing to look forward to and that is becoming an aunt at the end of this month.
Her twin sister, tennis player Kristyna Pliskova, is due to deliver a baby boy in a couple of weeks’ time and Karolina cannot wait to become an auntie.
“I saw her last week, I went back to Prague because of her, just so we can catch up a bit, when it’s still, for the last time, just me and her,” said Karolina of her sister.
“Now I’m not sure if I’m going back to Prague after Rome. Maybe next time I see my sister it won’t be only her anymore. But it’s very nice; especially that now there is no pressure for me from our parents (to have a baby), so that’s good,” she added with a laugh.
Pliskova doesn’t think she’ll be the kind of aunt that is completely spoiling her nephew.
“My husband, he has a daughter, and also I have a small sister, so I’m used to being around kids,” she explains. “So usually, because I travel a lot and I love shopping, I bring a lot of stuff, but that’s it.
“We are kind of strict both me and Kristyna. I’m just wondering how she’s going to be, if she’s going to change. They say once you have the baby you’ll change, so I hope she will not change. But I want to be strict.”

'She doesn’t really have a weakness' - On Iga Swiatek's ascent to the top of the women's game

This time last year, Pliskova enjoyed a run to the final at the Foro Italico in Rome before losing 6-0, 6-0 to Iga Swiatek in the championship match.
Swiatek, the reigning world number one who is currently on a 24-match winning streak, and has won her last four consecutive tournaments, has not lost a set in her last seven finals and delivered four bagel-sets during that stretch.
Is Pliskova surprised by the 20-year-old’s Pole dominance these past few months?
“I’m not surprised at all. She has that kind of game. I think she beats so many players super easy because she doesn’t really give one ball no matter what the score is,” said Pliskova of Swiatek.
“You can have players, like for example Madison Keys, she can play amazing but then she’s always going to have that one game where she gives you a couple of mistakes. But I think Iga just doesn’t have those games.
“Of course, she can still play better and worse, but still she doesn’t give any free mistakes. So that’s why it’s super difficult to stay close, and of course, if you feel bad then you’re just going to lose a lot.
“Because especially on clay, I think she moves very well, she doesn’t really have a weakness. And of course now, the confidence, I suppose it cannot be much higher. So that’s I think a big part of the success.”
Is there any comfort in knowing she wasn’t the only one to be soundly beaten by Swiatek in a final?
“Let’s say I was playing quite bad, but also she didn’t really give me anything, that’s why it was difficult to get in the match,” reflects Pliskova.
“But I’m not like really the only one she’s beating this way, okay maybe the only one who hasn’t won a game, but I think she beat so many players by a lot, even Naomi (Osaka) in the Miami final and she’s also a great player; I think that’s because of the style of the game that she has.”
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