Tennis: Nadal, Pliskova face double duty to reach semi-finals

Nadal celebrates after defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Nadal celebrates after defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas.PHOTO: AFP

CINCINNATI, Ohio (AFP) - Once and future number one Rafael Nadal and top-ranked Karolina Pliskova were doing double duty on Friday (Aug 18) at the WTA and ATP Cincinnati Masters, preparing for quarter-final matches after afternoon victories.

Spain's Nadal, assured of being atop the rankings come Monday for the first time since July 2014, defeated compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 to book a night matchup with Australian Nick Kyrgios.

Czech defending champion Pliskova, fighting second-ranked Simona Halep to remain world number one, ousted Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 in another of five matches postponed from Thursday due to rain.

Pliskova faced a short-rest quarter-final against fifth-rated Dane Caroline Wozniacki at the last major tuneup for the US Open.

Both Nadal and Ramos-Vinolas wore black ribbons on their shirts in memory of victims of the terror attack Thursday in Barcelona.

Nadal, a 15-time Grand Slam champion who won his 10th French Open title in June, was ensured of overtaking injury-idled Andy Murray and topping the rankings for the first time since July 2014 after Roger Federer withdrew from Cincinnati with a back injury.

Kyrgios, ranked 23rd, outlasted Croatia's Ivo Karlovic 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3. The Aussie double faulted on the last point to hand Karlovic the first set but forced an errant backhand to win the tie-breaker and dominated the last set.

Pliskova saved two break points and held in the final game of the first set but Giorgi hit a backhand winner on the only break point of the second set to force a third, which the Czech dominated to advance.

The Pliskova-Wozniacki winner will advance to a Saturday semi-final against Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, who ousted Russian eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 in a matchup of two-time Grand Slam winners that lasted two hours, 45 minutes.

"It was one of the best matches of the year," Muguruza said. "It was a battle. I fought so hard. It was very tough. We both played very well."

Spain's sixth-ranked Muguruza displayed a black ribbon on her visor in memory of Barcelona victims.

"I had it on my mind," Muguruza said.


Romania's Halep could dethrone Pliskova from the top spot this week, but Ukraine's fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina lost her chance at number one when she was beaten by Germany's Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-4 in a third-round match.

Goerges has a short-rest quarter-final against American Sloane Stephens, who eliminated Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

If Pliskova beats Wozniacki, she will force Halep to win the title to seize the top spot. Halep was set to face Britain's seventh-ranked Johanna Konta in a later quarter-final. Konta has won all three of their prior matchups.

If Pliskova loses, Halep could become next week's world number one by beating Konta. But Halep has lost two prior matches this year with a chance to ascend to number one, falling to Jelena Ostapenko in the French Open final and to Konta in a Wimbledon quarter-final after having won the first set in both matches.

Other men's quarter-finals pit Japan's Yuichi Sugita against 11th-ranked Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Austria's eighth-ranked Dominic Thiem against Spaniard David Ferrer and John Isner against US compatriot Jared Donaldson.

Czech Lucie Safarova will pass her injured US partner, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, for world doubles number one on Monday after she and fill-in teammate Barbora Strycova advanced to the semi-finals.