Pliskova twins, Karolina and Kristyna, newest sister act to hit Wimbledon

Blonde siblings from Czech Republic, who each have a junior singles title, arrive with high hopes, but only Karolina makes it to next round

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 5:10am

Kristyna has blond hair, a Maori-style tattoo, and likes Paulo Coelho novels. Karolina is more blonde, has two Maori-style tattoos and prefers Nicholas Sparks. A 1.83-metre left-hander, Kristyna won the junior singles title in England; Karolina, a 1.85-metre right-hander, claimed the same prize at the Australian Open.

Kristyna is two minutes older, but Karolina's name pops up first in a Google search of their surname. Karolina has a higher ranking, but Kristyna won their most recent match. They stay in the same hotel room on the road, often sharing a bed when necessary, but please, try not to mix them up.

The Pliskova sisters are 21-year-old identical twins from the Czech Republic, who were in the same section of the draw this week, a fortnight after they faced each other for the first time on the WTA tour at Eastbourne.

When asked to cite examples of how she is different from her twin, Kristyna searched for an answer, but stalled for time.

"Differences?" she repeated, and then after a long pause concluded: "I don't really know. We are a lot alike."

But Karolina, who said her sister called her the boss for no good reason, batted the question aside as if she had fielded it 1,000 times, which she probably has.

"There are a lot of differences," she said. "The tattoos, the hair. I'm a little taller, she's lefty and I'm righty. On the court, it's easy to tell us apart. Off the court, well, you have to figure it out."

Kristyna said they like ordinary sisters. They share clothes, fight and they rely on each other.

On the court, their fortunes have largely risen and fallen together. Kristyna said she was the stronger player until they were about 15, when Karolina started to overtake her. They both turned professional in 2009; Karolina won the Australian Open junior event in 2010, and Kristyna won the girls singles at junior Wimbledon in 2011. Karolina's ranking on the WTA tour was always a bit higher until Kristyna briefly nudged ahead at the end of last year. Karolina, now No 77, regained the advantage this year, slipping inside the top 100 for the first time, only for Kristyna, ranked No 102, to win their first WTA match-up this month at Eastbourne, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-3.

Bob and Mike Bryan are the sport's most famous twins, but the last prominent set of identical twins playing singles on the pro tour was Tom and Tim Gullikson, who met four times in the '70s and '80s. Tom is the lead national coach for the US Tennis Association and is at Wimbledon this week coaching Denis Kudla and other American players.

"There are no secrets when you play a twin," he said, while watching Kudla win his first-round match on Court 5. "You can read each other's minds, predict their tendencies, but they can predict yours as well."

Kristyna took the same court wearing a visor with her hair in a neat bun and a wristband just below the tattoo on her left forearm. Tall and lean, she raced out to a 3-0 lead, blasting big looping forehand winners to every corner of the court. But her Slovakian opponent, Jana Cepelova, quickly found her game, reeling off 12 of the match's final 14 games to usher Kristyna out of the tournament, 6-4, 6-1.

A few hours after the loss, she was out on Court 12, supporting her sister as she squared off against Nadia Petrova, the No 13 seed.

Petrova looked oddly unglued as Karolina essentially blew her off the court, hitting 32 winners against only six unforced errors. But as Karolina finished a surprisingly routine, 6-3, 6-2 win, there was barely even a fist pump, let alone a celebration.

"I'm a bit sad for my sister, so I didn't want to jump up and down," she said after the biggest win of her career. "It's hard when one wins and one loses. If we both won, we could celebrate."

The New York Times