LONDON, Great Britain - No.20 seed Kiki Bertens has officially found her feet on grass, brushing No.7 seed Karolina Pliskova aside 6-3, 7-6(1) to reach her first Wimbledon quarterfinal.
The 26-year-old becomes the first Dutch player to reach the last eight at SW19 since Michaella Krajicek in 2007 - and also eliminates the last remaining Top 10 seed in the competition. The highest-ranked player left is now No.11 seed (and World No.10) Angelique Kerber.
The rivalry between Pliskova and Bertens has thus far gone against surface expectations. The Czech had been ruthless in disposing of Bertens 6-2, 6-2 on the former Roland Garros semifinalist's beloved clay in Stuttgart this year; five years ago, in the qualifying rounds of Paris on fast indoor courts where Pliskova usually thrives, it was Bertens who was the winner.
Today, that pattern continued. Pliskova, a two-time champion and two-time runner-up on grass, consistently looked less attuned to the nuances of the surface than Bertens, who had come into Wimbledon having lost five of her last six matches on it going back to 2016.
Off the ground, the Charleston champion would prove more versatile and creative with her repertoire of shots and patterns of play. Booming down-the-line groundstrokes exposed the Czech's movement, capturing the first break of the match; judicious forays to the net showcased Bertens' doubles prowess as she took seven out of nine points in the forecourt over the course of the first set. The 2015 's-Hertogenbosch semifinalist - hitherto her career-best grass result - was also canny in mixing up her plays. A clever mid-court chipped return was awkward enough to elicit a Pliskova error - but Bertens followed it with power in the form of a clean inside-out backhand return winner.
The former World No.1's serve initially kept the scoreline close, with neither player seizing momentum through the first half of the first set, but whenever there was a potentially crucial tussle it was often the Dutch player who would often prove more clutch. Five out of the first six deuce games went Bertens' way - including two crucial holds from 0-40 down, once in the penultimate game of the first set and again in the first game of the second set. In total, Pliskova would convert just two of 10 break points, many of them with loose return errors, compared to Bertens' four out of six.
Pliskova, increasingly less able to seize free points on serve as Bertens began to read it, struggled with the malfunctioning of her major weapon. Serving to stay in the first set, a double fault was followed by an easy volley and routine forehand into the net; the game was over in the blink of an eye. The subpar play from the 2016 US Open runner-up continued at the start of the second set, with lacklustre approach shots offering Bertens easy targets on the pass - which the five-time clay-court titlist, in full flow, took with aplomb to leap out to a 4-1 lead.
With two points for a 5-3 lead, Bertens blinked as Pliskova finally upped her intensity, firing some big forehand to pull back to 4-4. But the wobble was brief: the 26-year-old resumed dictating off the ground with her impressive variety of strong forehands before peaking in the ensuing tiebreak. There, Bertens would show off her proficiency on the slice, the serve - firing her seventh ace - her groundstrokes, especially down the line and finally at the net, as she hammered a drive volley right on to the baseline. Having scored the first Top 10 win of her career on grass over Venus Williams on Saturday, Bertens had wasted no time in notching up the second - and now, it's evident that her game, tailored so heavily to clay, can have just as much of an impact on grass.