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Pliskova bounces back for second Brisbane title

6 January 2019, by with AAP

Karolina Pliskova’s big-match experience has hauled her back from the brink of defeat to deny Lesia Tsurenko an unlikely Brisbane International upset in Sunday’s women’s singles final.

The Czech fifth seed’s 4-6 7-5 6-2 victory landed her a second Brisbane title in three years and capped a remarkable comeback two points from defeat.

Six years after reaching the semi-finals a lucky loser, it was all the Ukrainian early on as she charged towards what would have been her biggest career title.

But a courtside pump-up from Australian coach Rennae Stubbs revived Pliskova, who won 13 straight points as Tsurenko went from serving for the championship to trailing in the decider in the blink of an eye.

“I felt there is no chance I can win this match. Of course, I tried but I felt so far away from playing good tennis tonight,” Pliskova said.

“And she was so good and so solid, making a lot of pressure from her backhand on my side. But [Rennae] said I am absolutely sure you can win this match, which gave me some confidence and belief that I can do it.”

A rolled ankle in the second game of the deciding set didn’t help the unseeded Ukrainian, who was left to ponder what went wrong.

Stubbs’ intervention was perfectly timed, with the former doubles champion-turned commentator telling the Czech world No.8 exactly what she needed to hear.

“It’s not over … you know this,” she told her. “You are hitting, not reacting. Hit and go … I don’t care if you lose this match right now, I want to see you do the right thing.

“You know how hard this is going to be for her to close out. She’s going to be nervous. Hit it through the middle and then go.”

Pliskova then hung on to her serve at 3-5 and watched as Tsurenko made three unforced errors while serving for the match.

An athletic backhand smash winner brought them level on terms and Pliskova didn’t stop there, racing to a 3-0 lead in the deciding set to dash Tsurenko’s hopes of a breakthrough top-level title.

The Czech sealed the result at the two-hour, 13-minute mark when Tsurenko’s forehand found the net.

“Brisbane is my favourite tournament … I have great memories here and always like to start the year here,” Pliskova said.

“I think everything was against me today. But I just tried to change the things around a little bit and believed I was going to get a chance … I felt I was getting better with the time.”

World No.27 Tsurenko had not lost a set in reaching her first top-level final and handled the nerves well when ousting favourite Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals.

But it quickly went pear-shaped in the decider, with Tsurenko left asking her own coach what had gone wrong.

“I was feeling the same all the way; but I don’t know what really changed at 5-4,” said Tsurenko, who beat US Open champion Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals.

“I don’t know, maybe she raised her level so much that I was not ready for that.

“It’s going to be a big lesson for me, and I’m tying to stay positive. Of course, I’m disappointed with myself, but in general I’m happy with the way I played.

“This is just the first premier final for me, so hopefully next one will be more successful. I almost did it.”

Pliskova improved her record in Brisbane to 13-2 and joined Victoria Azarenka (2009, 2016) and Serena Williams (2013-14) as the third woman to win the tournament twice.