Second-seeded Angelique Kerber moved within three wins over the No. 1 ranking Friday at Cincinnati after toughing out Barbora Strycova 7-6(5), 6-4.
“It’s always tough to play against Barbora – we’ve had a lot of tough matches in the past – but I just tried to stay aggressive at the important moments and I’m really happy with how I played at the end,” Kerber said.
If Kerber wins the title, she’ll become the oldest first-time No. 1 on the WTA computer and end Serena Williams’s run of 183 weeks at the top, falling three weeks short of Kerber’s countrywoman Steffi Graf’s record of 183.
In the quarters, Kerber will meet the feisty Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.
With Serena out, the top half is wide open. Karolina Pliskova eased past lucky loser Misaki Doi to set up a meeting with Svetlana Kuznetsova who beat Timea Bacsinszky in 3 sets.
No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza cruised past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-1. Next for the French Open champion is the surprising Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos. Babos stunned Dominika Cibulkova 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
In the showcase match of the day, Simona Halep will put her 12 match win streak on the line against Agnieszka Radwanska. Halep lost just three games to Daria Garvilova while Radwanska won the last 9 against Johanna Konta in a 6-7, 6-5, 6-0.
Radwanska leads 5-4 but they haven’t played this year.
“I feel much stronger, I feel more confident on court when I play now,” said Halep. “I have a few matches won in a row so that gives me more confidence and I was building, actually, this confidence since Indian Wells. I am feeling great on court and the most important thing is I am positive.”
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