EASTBOURNE, Great Britain - Ekaterina Alexandrova is into just the second grass court quarterfinal of her career at the Nature Valley International after moving past an ailing Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 2-1 (ret.)
Earlier in the week, Alexandrova had to come from a set down to see off last week's Mallorca Open finalist, Belinda Bencic, in a stunner. Now, she’s backed it to outlast the former French Open winner, who was forced to retire from the contest after 55 minutes citing a left hip injury.
As a result, Alexandrova will meet No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova in her fourth quarterfinal of the year - and her second ever on grass after a solid week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch earlier in the season.
“I’m very pleased to be in the quarterfinals, but it’s not the way that I wanted the match to end,” Alexandrova admitted afterwards. “It was a tough day to play, so windy. I’m just happy that I have a couple more hours to rest before the next match.”
Up against Ostapenko on Court 2, Alexandrova had to outlast the big hitting Latvian during a closely contested opening set - there were six breaks of serve in nine games, but the majority of them went Alexandrova’s way, starting the set with a daunting 4-0 lead.
Ostapenko’s booming returns were causing Alexandrova trouble of her own, keeping her under pressure during her service games before finally breaking to make it 4-2. The pair stayed toe to toe for the rest of the set, with another four breaks in a row shifting the momentum between the two players. But in the end, Ostapenko only managed to hold serve once in the whole set, and Alexandrova broke to take it 6-3.
After the first set, Ostapenko took a lengthy medical time out, receiving treatment off court. When she came back out, she earned a fast break for a 1-0 lead - but much like in the first set, she wasn’t able to hold her own serve to back it up, and Alexandrova brought them back to 1-1.
The former French Open winner fought through hobbled movement for another game, before finally calling time and retiring from the match - sending Alexandrova into the quarterfinals.
No.2 seed Pliskova awaits in the next round as Alexandrova seeks a spot in the semifinals. It’ll be the pair’s second career meeting, after Pliskova triumphed in their 2017 French Open second-round encounter.
“I like playing on grass, I get really excited for it every year,” Alexandrova said. “I think it will be tough [against Pliskova] because she serves so well. Not only the serve, she just plays so well. We’ll see!”