Sister, Sister: I Do My Own Style in My Own Time
This post first appeared at Tennis Grandstand.
The tennis world has long been familiar with sibling acts in the both the ATP and WTA. First it was the McEnroe brothers, followed by the (three) Maleeva sisters. Next came the Williams sisters and Bryan twins, followed the the Bondarenkos and the Radwanskas. Often times, one sibling sees considerably more success than the other. John McEnroe is in the Hall of Fame, while Patrick only won one singles title in his career. Kim Clijsters’ sister, Elke, played less than two years of professional tennis before retiring due to persistent injuries. She peaked at No. 483. Agnieszka Radwanska has been a mainstay in the WTA top 10 for the past five years, but her sister Urszula couldn’t even break into the top 50 in the world until July of 2012.
In total, seven sets of sisters have won titles together in professional tennis. The leaders, of course, are the Williams sisters, with 21 doubles titles and 13 grand slams. The Bondarenko sisters are a distant second, as they took home three titles; they join the Williams sisters as the only other major winners with a 2008 Australian Open title. Agnieszka and Urzsula Radwanska, Hao-Ching and Yung-Jan Chan, Katerina and Manuela Maleeva, Cammy and Cynthia MacGregor, Adriana and Antonella Serra Zanetti all own one doubles title together.
While there have been immense numbers of successful sisters (say that five times fast) on the WTA, there was never a set of twins. Until now.
Enter Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova. Each plays a similar game, centered around a huge serve and attacking tennis. Movement, to put it mildly, is neither one’s strength. Like the Bryans, you could once only tell them apart by their handedness. Both had tremendous junior careers, but struggled to translate that success onto the senior circuit. Karolina, the righty, was the 2010 Australian Open junior champion; Kristyna, the lefty, joined her sister in the junior slam champion club at Wimbledon in the same year. For a while, the identical twins seemed to be following identical career paths.
For the record, Karolina is now a brunette while Kristyna is a blonde.
Karolina Pliskova had already racked up four ITF singles titles by May of 2010, while Kristyna was still looking for her first. Then, the two faced off in the finals of a 50K ITF event in Kurume, Japan which Kristyna eventually won 5-7, 6-2, 6-0. Two years after her twin, Kristyna finally entered the senior winners’ circle. In fact, the two have already played seven times on the senior circuit in their young careers; Karolina holds a slim 4-3 advantage, with the most recent win, a 7-6(11), 7-6(6) triumph, coming in the finals of a 25K ITF event in Grenoble, France in January of 2012.
Despite having more overall success, Karolina ended 2012 ten spots behind her sister in the rankings; the end of Kristyna’s year was buoyed by a second round showing at the US Open. She qualified and defeated Julia Goerges in the second round for the Pliskova family’s best career win before losing to Mandy Minella. Karolina lost in the second round of qualifying in Flushing Meadows to Donna Vekic.
That’s all changed in 2013, as Karolina has begun to considerably outpace her twin; this run was highlighted by her first WTA title in Kuala Lumpur in March. The unseeded Pliskova defeated fifth-seeded Misaki Doi and fourth-seeded Ayumi Morita before defeating Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the final, a match in which she rallied from a 6-1 first set blowout. On the other side, Kristyna came into Kuala Lumpur as the eighth-seed, but crashed out to Kazakh qualifier Zarina Diyas in the first round. Krystina peaked at No. 86 in the rankings in January, but is now back outside the top 100. Karolina passed her sister’s career high last week, and currently sits at No. 81.
That gulf will no doubt widen after this week in Katowice. Karolina is in the quarterfinals in singles, having defeated Maria-Teresa Torro Flor and fifth-seed Kaia Kanepi en route. She’ll face off against second-seed Roberta Vinci on Friday. Kristyna lost to the No. 3 seed, Klara Zakopalova, in the opening round. The pair, who’ve shown prowess in doubles as well, were knocked out in the doubles quarterfinals on Thursday after defeating top-seeded Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Janette Husarova.
Both twins turned professional in 2009 and it’s taken them until now to each make a name for themselves on the WTA. However, it remains to be seen if one, or both, can take the Pliskova family name to the top.
More than two years after this article was written, some casual tennis fans don’t even realize that Karolina has a twin.