Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the top seed at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open, came through another tough test from Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan to reach the semi-finals, where she will meet Maria Sakkari after the Greek took out home favourite Tereza Martincova.
My family is here, because it’s like home home. I was born 20 minutes by car from here. It’s a different tournament, I spent every afternoon before the tournament started with my family. It’s just different lying in your own bed. My mom took care of me, made a coffee, and good snacks as well! Petra Kvitova
While 2nd-seeded Petra Kvitova also made her way safely into the semis, with a win over Jil Teichmann, her surprise opponent will be Anett Kontaveit, who upset Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, the 3rd seed from Switzerland, in straight sets.
The wins by the Czech and the Estonian put paid to the much-anticipated Swiss derby between Teichmann and Bencic.
Swiatek had to battle hard against Rybakina before winning through in an hour 41 minutes, 7-6(5) 6-2, to reach the last-four at a tournament for the first time since her title run in Rome in May.
The Pole got the first break in the 4th game for a 3-1 lead, but Rybakina gritted out a challenging service break with a rally crosscourt backhand to level the opening proceedings at 3-3.
Swiatek was stellar behind her first serve, winning over three-quarters of those points, although less so on her second delivery, where Rybakina took charge and claimed 61 percent of points, but ultimately, the Pole was able to get a strong 72 percent of her first serves into play, helping her along to victory.
She also kept the Kazakh at bay with her powerful groundstrokes off both wings, and an easy hold for 6-6 by the Pole set up a first set tiebreak.
Strong serving by both kept the breaker competitive, with Swiatek claiming the first set point at 6-5 after consecutive unreturned deliveries.
Swiatek converted, staying sturdy through a lengthy rally until Rybakina sent a backhand miscue wide, and the top seed nabbed the set.
Carrying on the momentum, Swiatek charged ahead 5-1 in the second, although Rybakina clawed a break back for 5-2 with a backhand winner down the line on break point, but the Pole’s forehands came out in force in the next game, and she prevailed in the protracted battle to convert her 3rd match point in that game.
Swiatek’s next opponent is Sakkari, who secured a place in her 6th semi-final of the season with a 7-5 6-3 win over Czech wild-card Martincova after 1 hour and 36 minutes.
Sakkari has risen to a career-high of 12 in the world after reaching two Grand Slam semi-finals at Roland Garros and the US Open.
Earlier, the Greek got the early break in the opening game against Martincova, whom she had beaten on both of their previous meetings.
Despite failing to serve out the opening set at the first time of asking over the Czech, who was playing her first WTA 500 quarter-final, Sakkari maintained her control to take her head-to-head lead to 3-0.
The No 4 seed had faced 2 break points in the 10th game, when she was broken at 5-4 in the opener, but she converted her 3rd break point in the 11th to win the set 7-5.
Sakkari, who was at her imperious best against Jelena Ostapenko in her previous match, was not quite so on song in this encounter, committing 29 unforced errors off the ground and landing only 63% of her first serves, but the potency of her deliveries was such that she faced break points in just the one game.
She kept Martincova from gaining any momentum in the second set as the Czech visibly wilted after spending nearly five-and-a-half hours on court over her previous two rounds, and turned the screw with a succession of ruthless winning drop-shots.
Meanwhile, in Kvitova’s 6-4 6-4 win over the in-form Teichmann, the 2nd seed hammered 24 winners on her way to the last 4 after the 1 hour 36 minute quarter-final contest.
The former World No 2 and two-time Wimbledon champion saved 7 of the 8 break points she faced while converting 3 of the 7 break points she had on the Swiss serve.
“Even from the baseline, we played great rallies,” Kvitova said after the match. “I have to be patient sometimes with her slices, and so I couldn’t make winners straight away, so I think it was kind of a different match today.
“She was playing with a kind of topspin from the forehand, it was just different tactics.
“I had to pull it out, it took me a little bit to get used to her game.”
The Czech is delighted to be competing on home soil.
“My family is here, because it’s like home home,” Kvitova told the press. “I was born 20 minutes by car from here.
“It’s a different tournament, I spent every afternoon before the tournament started with my family.
“It’s just different lying in your own bed. My mom took care of me, made a coffee, and good snacks as well!”
Teichmann, the World No 42, has already upset Top 20 opponents 6 times this year as she climbs up the rankings, including fellow lefty Kvitova in Dubai via retirement, which was the only prior meeting between the two.
The World No 10, however, was able to exact her revenge in front of the excited compatriot crowd on Friday, as she swept to victory.
While three of the semi-finalists followed form, the fourth proved a surprise in the final match of the day, when unseeded Kontaveit upset Bencic, 6-4 6-3, to set up a match with Kvitova.
The Estonian needed just an hour and 14 minutes to get past the Swiss, striking 29 winners against 19 unforced errors, while Bencic, on the other hand, had only 12 winners to 18 unforced errors.
Kontaveit converted 74.4 percent of her first-serve points and was the more aggressive as she powered her way to a 5-1 lead in the opening set, and held a set point, but Bencic pulled off a stirring comeback, firing a winner to save that, and another at 5-3 as well.
The 3rd seed eventually clawed both breaks back to get back on serve at 5-4, but Kontaveit attacked again in the following game, using outrageous returns to reach triple set point, and converting on the first.
The second saw a trade of early breaks, but Kontaveit settled into the set and took charge for good by slamming a backhand winner down the line to break for 4-2.
A love hold for 5-2 moved her one step closer, and the unseeded Estonian wrapped up the match two games later with a crosscourt backhand winner.