Tennis: Pliskova fights back to set up clash with Barty in Stuttgart

Pliskova reacts after winning against Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko.
Pliskova reacts after winning against Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko.PHOTO: AFP

STUTTGART, GERMANY (AFP) - Karolina Pliskova will face world number one Ashleigh Barty in the quarter-finals of Stuttgart’s WTA clay-court tournament after seeing off Jelena Ostapenko in a three-set battle on Thursday (April 22).

Pliskova, the sixth seed, recovered from losing the first set in a tie-break by firing down 21 aces, 10 of which came in the last set alone, for a 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 6-3 second-round win.

“I like spending time on this court,” joked Pliskova, the 2018 Stuttgart champion, after needing almost two and a half hours to claim victory.

“It was a really good match, because there was not many easy mistakes from both sides.

“It was a far better performance from me,” she added, having laboured in Wednesday’s victory over lucky loser Tamara Korpatsch.

Thursday’s result was almost identical to Pliskova’s win over Latvian Ostapenko in the 2018 quarter-finals in Stuttgart when the Czech went on to capture the title.

Former French Open champion Ostapenko hurled her racquet in anger in the second set, while Pliskova broke one of hers as she regained control of the match.

“It always helps me when I break a racquet,” the Czech said.

Pliskova, ranked ninth in the world, plays top seed Barty of Australia in the last eight Friday.

“She’s on a good run and has won a few tournaments, but I have nothing to lose,” added Pliskova.

Barty, who won a pre-Australian Open tournament in Melbourne and the Miami Open earlier this month, breezed into the quarter-finals Wednesday by overpowering Laura Siegemund following a first-round bye.

She is using the Stuttgart event as part of her preparations for next month’s French Open, where she won her first Grand Slam title in 2019.

She sat out the 2020 tournament at Roland Garros because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Second-seed Simona Halep needed less than an hour to power into the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Marketa Vondrousova.

The world number three Romanian admitted having been nervous after losing her two previous meetings with the 21-year-old Vondrousova in 2019.

“I had to wait a few days to play and I was a bit nervous as she won our previous matches, but I had a good plan,” said Halep.

On Friday, the 29-year-old faces either Swiss Belinda Bencic or Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina earned her seventh straight win over Germany’s Angelique Kerber claiming a 7-6(7/4), 6-3 victory in a high-quality tie.

Kerber fought hard before succumbing to the Ukranian who she last beat in Montreal back in 2016.

“It’s always a battle against her, but she just brings out the best in me,” said Svitolina after her seventh win over the German.

Svitolina faces Petra Kvitova, the 2019 Stuttgart champion, in the quarter-finals.

Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus plays Anett Kontaveit in the last eight after her 6-4, 6-2 win over German qualifier Anna-Lena Friedsam.

Estonian Kontaveit is looking to knock out another big name after shocking Sofia Kenin of the US, ranked fourth in the world, in the second round on Wednesday.