BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - Former finalist Barbora Strycova was the first to book her spot in the semifinals of the Nature Valley Classic with a 6-2, 6-4 win over compatriot Kristyna Pliskova.
A two-time runner-up in Birmingham in 2014 and 2016, the 33-year-old Czech has now reached the semifinals or better at the event four times in six appearances since it was upgraded to Premier status.
"There must be something really special here. I can't say. I just love to come here," Strycova said. "I love the tournament. It's kind of really relaxed tournament for me, and I really enjoy England. I love to play here. I'm enjoying myself on court."
The World No.51 was in front for almost the entirety of the 72-minute clash, keeping the big-hitting Pliskova at bay with her patented mix of spins and approaches to the net which have made her so successful on grass in her career.
However, Pliskova, who scored her first-ever Top 5 victory over twin Karolina in a standout second round match, was not without her chances late in the second set.
The left-handed Pliskova twin created five break points in the second set, after winning just three points in four return games in the opener, only to see the veteran Czech deny her each chance.
Pliskova held a 0-40 lead in the eighth game of the second set, but won five straight points to pull through, and also saved a break point as she served out the match.
"I thought I started the match very well. I was playing the first set without any mistakes going on, so I broke her twice, which was the key," Strycova said.
"The beginning of the second set, I start to feel a little bit kind of -- not tired, but I was heavy, because we didn't have so much rallies so I couldn't move so much. I was, like, I kept saying to myself, 'Keep moving, keep moving.'
"The key was when it was 3-All, Love-40 on my serve and I hold it there, it was really important for me. I had to dig in very hard. It was 3-All, and I couldn't put first serve in. I was, like, Why not?
"I was focusing more going first serve and volley, because it always helps me. I was just focusing point by point, because she can just hit winners and then it's 3-6. So was just focusing to play first serve in."
Both players posted quality numbers on the stat sheet, with Strycova hitting 18 winners to just nine unforced, while Pliskova tallied 21 winner to 17 unforced, and six aces.
"[I was] not surprised [to see Kristyna instead of Karolina.] I think for both of them to play each other is very tough," Strycova assessed of her compatriots.
"I couldn't say who was gonna win, because to play your sister, we can't really -- I have a sibling, so to play my sibling, it would be tough."
Strycova will next be faced with winner of the match between No.2 seed Ashleigh Barty and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.
"I thought every year is good field, but this year is really hard," Strycova said. "But I don't look at it this way. I never look at the draws. So my coach always tells me, 'Okay, you play against someone.'
"We have good players here, which is great for the tournament, and for the crowd."