At the bett1open, the WTA 500 grass court tournament in Berlin, Coco Gauff, the No 7 seed, got off to a winning start with a 6-2 7-6(2) first-round victory over fellow American Ann Li on Wednesday, completing the round of 16, while Karolina Pliskova, the 4th seed, won the blockbuster match of the day against Bianca Andreescu to reach the quarter-finals alongside Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina.
Of course Bianca is a super-tough opponent, she can really give you anything. Slices, she can play fast, she can serve really well, she can come to the net. So I think there was a little bit of everything in this match. I'm super-proud that I was able to turn the match around, because I was losing in the third set. Karolina Pliskova
Playing her first match since her run to her first Grand Slam singles final at Roland Garros, Gauff triumphed in an hour-and-a-half, firing 5 aces and converting 5 of her 10 break points on her way.
Gauff charged through the first set in 35 minutes without facing a break point, and quickly took control of the second, breaking Li to love in the first game with a forehand cross-court winner.
Li’s powerful groundstrokes clicked into place when Gauff served for the match at both 5-4 and 6-5, and Li earned her first 2 service breaks of the day in those 2 games, but the 18-year old regrouped in the tiebreak, in which she dominated to pocket the match.
In their first meeting on the WTA Tour, Gauff will face 20-year-old Chinese qualifier Wang Xinyu for a spot in the quarter-finals where the winner will take on Pliskova.
The Czech edged past Andreescu, 6-4 2-6 7-6(7), to reach her 2nd quarter-final of the year, striking 12 aces to add to the 17 aces she hit against Kaia Kanepi in the first round, and although she had to fight back from a break down in the 3rd set, she prevailed in 2 hours, 11 minutes on the grass of Steffi Graf Stadion.
The 30-year-old, who was last year’s runner-up at Wimbledon, now is looking for her first title of the year.
The World No 7 described Andreescu as a ‘super tough opponent’ and was glad that she was able to edge out the Canadian in a thrilling battle.
Pliskova was down by an early break in the first set too, but she broke Andreescu in the 6th and 10th games to overturn the deficit and win the opener.
Andreescu responded well to dropping the first set as she jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, before serving out for the second set in the 8th game, and building a 5-3 lead in the decider, where she had the chance to serve out for the match.
Pliskova, though, refused to quit as she broke back to forced a tiebreak in which the Czech missed out on her first 2 match points, but converted on her 3rd to earn herself the hard-fought win.
“Of course Bianca is a super-tough opponent, she can really give you anything,” she said later. “Slices, she can play fast, she can serve really well, she can come to the net.
So I think there was a little bit of everything in this match.
“I’m super-proud that I was able to turn the match around, because I was losing in the third set.
“I thought she was a little bit better in the second and third sets, but I stayed in there, and I fought, and I got my chances in the end,” Pliskova concluded.
Andreescu had a 4-2 lead in the third set, and 2 break points in the 7th game, which Pliskova saved to avoid going down by a double break, and later she recognised that was one of the keys behind her come-back win.
It took her 2 hours and 11 minutes to reach her second quarter-final of 2022, improving on her 6-8 record since returning in March from the wrist fracture she sustained in the off-season.
Meanwhile, Sakkari, the World No 6 and seeded 2 here, collected her 24th victory of the year by knocking out Australian qualifier Daria Saville, 6-1 7-5, which puts the Greek tied for the 3rd-most match-wins on tour in 2022 so far.
Saville is a former Top 20 player who is on the comeback trail after persistent injuries over the last few seasons, and has picked up 12 wins over Top 10 players in her career.
Sakkari, who had 21 winners to just 10 unforced errors on the day, refused to hand another upset to the Aussie, earning the first break of the match to take a 3-1 lead after slamming a forehand return winner to close out the game.
The Greek swept through the rest of the opener without facing a break point, but the second set was much closer as Saville, currently on the brink of a Top 100 return, matched Sakkari shot for shot.
Nevertheless, a sturdy forehand gave Sakkari the critical break to lead 6-5, and she served out the match with ease in the next game.
“I think the first set was almost perfect for me,” Sakkari said afterward. “Not many unforced errors, I was very aggressive, I was serving really well.
“I think that [Saville] stepped up her game, she started playing better. It was a very close second set. I stayed focused when I had to, and I’m very glad with the way I played.”
Sakkari is now into her 4th career tour-level quarter-final on grass, with her other 3 all coming at Nottingham, but she will be surely tested by No 6 seed Daria Kasatkina, who has won all 4 of their previous matches, including on the clay of Madrid last month, in this, their first meeting on grass.
“In Madrid, [Kasatkina] played a very good game,” Sakkari said. “I was up a set, I had my chances, but I didn’t take them.
“She’s a fighter, she’s been on tour for a while even though she’s very young, so I’m expecting a very tough match.
“She’s going to bring out a lot of energy, a good fight, and I’m ready for it.”
Kasatkina rallied to beat Russian compatriot Ekaterina Alexandrova, 5-7 6-1 6-1, for her quarter-final place, while Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich ended home favourite Andrea Petkovic’s hopes with a 6-4 6-4 win, after the German upset Garbiñe Muguruza, the 5th seed from Spain, on Tuesday.
Sasnovich had beaten Petkovic in their last 2 meetings, and she continued her successful streak against the German with a 1 hour 37 minute win this time round, converting 5 of her 9 break points to triumph.
She will contest her first tour-level quarter-final on grass against the winner of the second-round match between top seed Ons Jabeur and American qualifier Alycia Parks, who will square off on Thursday.