STUTTGART, Germany – No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova was made to work hard to beat WTA World No.193 Veronika Kudermetova, 7-6 (4), 6-3 at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
The Russian had beaten Carla Suárez Navarro in the first round and proved that was no fluke as she pushed the Czech all the way in the first set before fading in the second after treatment on her left thigh.
Indeed, at one stage it seemed she might take the first set, having moved ahead in the tiebreak, but Pliskova survived the scare to secure a quarterfinal with Jelena Ostapenko.
The warnings that she would not have a straightforward afternoon were made clear in the first game, when her 21-year-old opponent pushed her to deuce thanks to her fearless, hard-hitting approach, particularly when given second serves to attack.
Pliskova responded by winning break point in the next game, but the youngster replied with the type of powerful serving that had thwarted her minutes earlier. Indeed, this would be a feature of the a match in which there were 21 aces, 15 to the 26-year-old.
There was little to separate the players in the opening set thereafter. It was largely a story of powerful groundstrokes, but when it was necessary, both showed deft touch at the net.
Kudermetova would draw first blood, getting the bounce of the ball from two net cords during the seventh game, but she allowed her concertation to wander in the following game and was broken herself.
At this point, the momentum started to shift in favour of the more experienced player. Pliskova won two set points on her opponents’ serve, but the tiebreak was fittingly secured with an ace.
In the decider, just as in the set, Kudermetova got her nose in front but quickly ceded the lead. Although she was initially able to resist, Pliskova came through 7-4.
There was an extended interval between sets as Kudermetova received treatment on her left thigh, and while she did not seem to be badly impeded with the injury, her level was not quite on a par with what she had achieved in the opening set.
Pliskova moved 0-40 up in the third game and made the breakthrough at the third attempt when he opponent hit long.
While she was making increasingly regular inroads into her opponent, she fell 15-40 down on her own serve following a blistering return. These two opportunities were seen off and then so was a third as she moved 5-3 up.
This blow finally ended the resistance of Kudermetova was ended, with Pliskova breaking again in the next game to seal the victory.
Ostapenko is up next for the WTA World No.6, who has never before faced the Latvian on clay but leads the head-to-head record 2-1.