Former Wimbledon champions Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber powered into the quarter-finals of the Bad Homburg Open presented by Engel & Völkers, while Victoria Azarenka also ensured there will be a star-studded last-eight at the German event.
I tried to play aggressive from the first point on. I am happy with the way I played today. It is important for me to have many matches and then to go to Wimbledon with a lot of confidence. Angelique Kerber
Top seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova overcame a second-set hiccup as she beat American Ann Li, 6-2 6-7(7) 6-1, in the fading light.
The Czech won the opening set comfortably but was pushed in the second set by the American, who took the match to the decider after claiming the set in the tiebreak.
The final set was, once again, dominated by the former World No 2, who finished the match, 3 minutes shy of 2 hours.
Advancing to her 4th quarter-final of the year, the World No 12 came through on her 3rd match-point, wrapping up the win with 4 aces, and taking 67 percent, 47 of 70, of her first-serve points and converting 4 of 9 break points she faced while out-pointing Li by 106 to 90.
“Finally, I felt better on the court and was moving much better [than Monday]” Kvitova said during her on-court interview. “Having two matches here after my [ankle] injury is very good. … I’m looking forward to another match.”
In the quarters, Kvitova will play 5th seed Nadia Podoroska, who also needed 3 sets to get past Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig, the Argentine eventually winning through, 7-6(4) 2-6 6-4, after 2 hours 15 minutes.
Both players traded breaks in the opening set before Podoroska won it in the tiebreak.
Although the second, too, had an exchange of breaks, Tig had better control over her game, which helped her level the match, but Podoroska came back strongly in the deciding set to take the victory, firing 8 aces in the process.
In just the second grass-court tournament of her career, the Argentine is fast finding her grass court footing to reach the quarter-finals of the Bad Homburg Open.
Podoroska converted 3 of 6 break-point chances against the 62nd-ranked Romanian, including a key break during the 5th game of the final set to go ahead 3-2 and winning on her 2nd match-point opportunity following a double-fault on her first try with a backhand winner down the line that capped an 8-shot rally.
She worked hard for the victory and outpointed Tig 102-101, while the win levelled her 2021 win-loss record at 12-12 following a 42-8 campaign last year that was split between the WTA and ITF World Tour.
“I’m really happy,” Podoroska said during an on-court interview. “This is my second tournament on grass. So, it’s new for me. I’m happy for the result. I’m feeling more confident.”
The first time Podoroska played on grass was at Wimbledon qualifying in 2017 when she lost in the first round to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal in a tough three-setter, 8-6 in the third.
This time, Podoroska very safely earned a direct entry into the Wimbledon main draw thanks to her ranking, although she is not seeded but could be a dangerous floater in the first round.
This will be the second clash between Kvitova and Podoroska, their previous meeting coming on hard courts at the Yarra Valley Classic in January when the Argentine, the World No 39, won the match.
Meanwhile, home favourite Kerber hammered Anna Blinkova 6-0 6-2 earlier in the day, dropping her first game only at the start of the second set against 90th-ranked Russian, and the other late in the match, before careering to victory after 58 minutes.
The affair was as lopsided as her 6-1 6-1 first-round win over Russian qualifier Ekaterina Yashina at the new grass court event.
Kerber, who lifted the trophy at the All England Club in 2018, has dropped to 28 in the rankings and went out in the first round of the first two grand slams of the year, the Australian and French Opens.
She was efficient on Wednesday, winning 88 percent (21 of 24) of her first-serve points, did not face any break points, broke Blinkova 5 times in 11 tries and outpointed her opponent 60-30.
In Thursday’s quarterfinal round, Kerber will play 81st-ranked American Amanda Anisimova.
“I think it was a good match and people enjoyed it,” Kerber said of her victory over Blinkova, during an on-court interview session in both German and English. “I tried to stay focused and tried to play good tennis today.
“It worked out and I’m happy how I played. From the first point, I tried to play aggressive and take the match in my hands. I think I played a solid match and I’m looking forward to being in the quarter-finals.”
Wimbledon 2021 starts on Monday with Kerber seeming to find some form.
“I tried to play aggressive from the first point on. I am happy with the way I played today,” Kerber said.
“It is important for me to have many matches and then to go to Wimbledon with a lot of confidence.”
Kerber last week lost early in Berlin to Azarenka who, on Wednesday, had to fight for more than 3 hours, saving 4 match points as she outlasted France’s Alizé Cornet, 6-4 3-6 7-6(7) in a remarkable contest.
It was a stern test for the 2nd seed, who wasted an early 3-1 lead in the final set and had to fight all the way before winning.
The Belarusian saved 4 match points and took the deciding tiebreak 9-7 to win the contest and set up a clash with Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, who defeated Misaki Doi from Japan, 6-4 6-4.
Azarenka also overcame a medical time out to deal with an abdominal issue early in the 3rd set and also played the final set with a sore left thigh.
Meanwhile, Cornet saved a couple of match points at 4-5 in the final set, then was unable to put away the match while serving at 6-5 as Azarenka saved 2 match points to draw even and force a 3rd-set tiebreak.
Cornet let two more match points slip away at 6-5 and 7-6 during the breaker and Azarenka, ahead 8-7, finally cashed in to win the match.
“I’m really happy I was able to finish the match,” said a tired and exhausted Azarenka during a post-match interview. “I was not sure at the beginning of the third set.
“But I was trying to take it one point at a time, trying to fight as much as I could. I was really proud of that.”
The former World No 1 is now through to the quarter-finals aiming to claim her 22nd WTA title but has won just one singles event since April 2016.
The 31-year-old is also searching for her first career title on grass ahead of Wimbledon next week.