It was the closest Karolina Pliskova had been to a Major.
Unfortunately for Pliskova, she let the lead slip. 3-1* in the third turned into 4-6 and it was Kerber who was lifting the US Open trophy.
Pliskova hasn’t reached a Grand Slam final since.
But, the 2020 US Open represents an opportunity for Pliskova to right the wrongs of that 2016 missed chance.
Four years later, the circumstances are certainly different. In this edition, the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging the world, leading to six of the WTA Top 10 sitting out of the tournament.
Pliskova is now the No. 1 seed. It is certainly a great honor to be the top seed at a Grand Slam, but there is a lot of pressure that comes with such a position.
There is pressure to perform and to blitz through a weakened draw, pressure for a player without a Grand Slam to justify her seeding, and the pressure of knowing that this is her best chance (pre-tournament) to win her first Major.
There was a moment during Pliskova’s first round match with Anhelina Kalinina that was a crossroads, already, in her tournament.
After having been up 4-1* in the first set, Pliskova had relinquished the lead. She suddenly found herself down *4-4 (15-40). A break here and Kalinina would have the chance to serve out the first set and all of the momentum.
How would Pliskova respond? Would she fold under the weight of the moment or would she fight back?
Pliskova came back with an ace followed by a serve-plus-one winner. She continued her aggressive play to hold and then break Kalinina to love to win the set.
In fact, from that *4-4 (15-40) position, Pliskova did not lose a single game. She won 6-4 6-0 in a victory that acted as a declaration that Pliskova was here to stay. This wouldn’t be the Pliskova that lost to Veronika Kudermetova. This is a determined Pliskova that won’t go down easily.
The faster court speed should help her serve and a second round matchup against shaky Caroline Garcia shouldn’t trouble her.
This is Pliskova’s moment to make a move and win a Major. Pliskova’s level for those last eight games should certainly scare the rest of the field. Her confidence will be sky-high after the way she finished the match.
If Karolina Pliskova can win the 2020 US Open, then that 2016 final loss would be nothing but a distant memory.
Main Photo from Getty.