Karolina Pliskova came back from the brink of defeat to deny Lesia Tsurenko an unlikely Brisbane International upset in the final. The Czech completed a 4-6 7-5 6-2 victory to seal her second title in the tournament's history and joined Serena Williams and Vika Azarenka as the two-time champions in Brisbane.
Pliskova, who lifted the title here in 2017, made Brisbane International the second event where she has been a repeat finalist at after Eastbourne (2016 – runner-up, 2017 - champion). Having reached at least one singles title for seven consecutive seasons, she will rise to No.7 in the rankings, projected to overcome Petra Kvitova and return the top-ranked Czech player.
Despite the defeat, Tsurenko is guaranteed to reach a new high ranking of No.24. The Ukrainian, the 10th unseeded player to reach the Brisbane final, looked extremely convincing in the opening set. Six years after reaching the semi-finals a lucky loser, served for the match at 6-4, 5-4 only to have the wheels fall off.
Having reached the final without dropping a set, Tsurenko was bidding to extend her perfect 4-0 record in career finals as she won the titles in Guangzhou in 2015 (d. Urszula Radwanska), Istanbul in 2016 (d. Jankovic), and Acapulco in 2017 (d.
Mladenovic) and 2018 (d. Voegele). She also aimed to score multiple Top 10 wins at the same tournament for the second time in her career (also No.7 Bouchard and No.10 Petkovic at 2015 Indian Wells). Tensions and pressure, however, burdened the world No.27 as she moved within few points from becoming the fourth unseeded Brisbane champion, joining Kvitova (2011), Kanepi (2012) and Azarenka (2016).
Suddenly Tsurenko, the fourth consecutive unseeded finalist here (also Azarenka in 2016, Cornet in 2017 and Sasnovich in 2018), gifted a break to love. Pliskova reeled off four straight games to level the match and launch her 262nd career victory.
Serving at 0-1 and deuce in the deciding set, Tsurenko twisted her ankle and required a medical time-out in a decisive turn of luck. Pliskova broke immediately for 2-0 and cruised towards her 84th win to 45 defeats in three-set matches.
Pliskova dominated the proceedings to improve to 13-2 her win-loss mark in the tournament joining Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the second most victories here: only Azarenka (15) has more wins to her name A lengthy exchange and a sweet backhand winner down the line took her to seven straight games and a 3-0 third-set lead.
Her timing on the ball constantly grew and she felt now free to notch up winners and close the points to the net much to the approval of her Australian coach, Rennae Stubbs. On a netted forehand from her frustrated opponent, Pliskova could celebrate the twelfth career titles.
And the first thing she did after hugging her coach was a check on Tsurenko's ankle. That's the sign of a champion.