Shock defeat for Pliskova

Top seed Angelique Kerber acknowledges the crowd after fighting back from 3-5 down in the third set, winning four straight games to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 at the Madrid Open.
Top seed Angelique Kerber acknowledges the crowd after fighting back from 3-5 down in the third set, winning four straight games to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 at the Madrid Open.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Clay-court struggle continues for world No. 3 but Kerber fights to reach Madrid third round

MADRID • World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova was dumped out of the second round of tennis' Madrid Open 6-3, 6-3 by Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova yesterday.

However, top seed Angelique Kerber fought back from 3-5 down in the deciding set to avoid a similar fate as she overcame Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 1-6, 7-5.

Pliskova, seeded second in the absence of world No. 1 Serena Williams as the American is expecting her first child, has struggled on clay after a great start to the season on the hard courts of Australia and the United States.

She made early exits in Stuttgart and on home soil in Prague last week.

World No. 22 Sevastova's run of seven straight games from 2-3 down in the first set to lead by a set and going ahead 3-0 in the second was decisive.

The Latvian was solid on serve and needed just one break in the second set, as she served out the match to set up a meeting with Barbora Strycova or Lara Arruabarrena in the third round.

"Obviously it's still quite fast here, but not that fast as on a hard court," Pliskova said.

"The ball doesn't really slip. It just jumps high even if I hit hard. She can still get there somehow. Then I'm like, not the good runner so I cannot get to the balls that fast.

"She played really good angles to me. I was everywhere a little bit late."

Pliskova's aspirations on clay are not dead, though.

She will play in Rome and the French Open this month. But she conceded that she is not expecting much success.

"I think right now finally I can change my expectation. I had it quite high," Pliskova said.

"I think I'm not going to expect anything more on clay. I'm just going to see how it goes there, try to prepare obviously for Paris."

Kerber has also had an inconsistent season and her fragile form was exposed as the second set unfolded.

The German romped through the opening set in 27 minutes but the tempo of the match changed and she had to save six break points for her only game in the second.

Siniakova served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set, but Kerber showed impressive fighting spirit to win the last four games.

The German will next face the winner of Maria Sharapova's grudge match with Eugenie Bouchard which was played this morning (Singapore time).

Bouchard called Sharapova "a cheater" last week and suggested the Russian should have been banned for life - rather than 15 months - after testing positive for meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Shock defeat for Pliskova'. Print Edition | Subscribe