TOKYO, Japan - Angelique Kerber showed glimpses of the form that took her to the top of the world as she defeated Karolina Pliskova 7-6(5), 7-5 to reach the semifinal of the Toray Pan Pacific Open.
"I'm feeling good," said Kerber afterwards. "Being back in the semis here in Tokyo is a great feeling.
"It's always tough to play against [Pliskova], so I was trying to focus on my game. I think I played a good match today."
The two former World No.1s were meeting for the first time since the 2016 US Open final, which the German won 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
This was a similarly tightly-contested affair, with Kerber looking deft on her feet from the off, working hard throughout to keep the pressure on the Pliskova serve. Despite her poor recent form, and failure to convert break points, she stayed composed when the first set went to a tie-break, and her tactics proved successful when the Czech double-faulted to hand her the lead.
The Czech continued to fend off break points, but Kerber's sensible approach to the match - combined with some belting backhands - eventually secured her a deserved victory. A brilliant cross-court shot on her fifth match point got the German her first Top 20 win of 2017.
Next up for Kerber is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat Barbora Strycova 5-7, 6-3, 6-1. Afterwards, she spoke about regaining her form after a year in which she has fallen from World No.1 out of the Top 10: "I've learned a lot from this year," said the German. "How to have the pressure, and get used to it. Now I just go out there and try to play good matches and focus on winning matches."