In one of her biggest wins since childbirth, Victoria Azarenka knocked out world No. 4 and defending champion Karolina Pliskova coming from a set down to win it 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Stuttgart Thursday.
After missing break chances in the first, Azarenka quickly converted early in the second and then broke again after the set evened. In the third, Azarenka held off an early push from Pliskova, but broke late to win it.
“I think the whole match was really high quality,” Azarenka said. “There was a lot of winners, a lot of good serves, a lot of aces and a lot of pressure from both sides.
“Third set was a couple of games, that I had to battle a little bit on my serve and she was putting a lot of pressure but I felt that I stayed really focused and I stayed strong and too my chances like really took those opportunities and tried to force her to do better and better on her serve, and she was serving really well. And that last game I was able to find some good returns and put pressure.”
The win was Azarenka’s first over a Top 5 player on clay in almost four years, since Rome 2015.
Awaiting in the quarters will be 8th-seeded Anett Kontaveit who beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 6-3, 6-2.
Making her clay debut this season, Naomi Osaka had now trouble avenging a Miami loss in her last match to Su-Wei Hsieh, topping the tricky Taiwanese 6-4, 6-3.
“I felt like this surface is more suited for me (than her), and that sounds pretty weird but I think that’s true,” Osaka said. “I was sort of in my plan. So, I just felt like I executed what I was trying to do.”
The win also clinches the No. 1 ranking for another week for Osaka. She’ll now meet Donna Vekic who ousted Daria Kasatkina, 6-1, 7-5.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to practice with a couple of times and also to play matches against her,” said Osaka of Vekic. “I think the last time we practiced was during grass season, and she’s a really tough person to play against. She has a good serve. There’s not really anything she’s bad at.”
In an all-German affair, Angelique Kerber eliminated Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4. Next will be Kiki Bertens who came from behind to defeat Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Anastasija Sevastova advanced over German Laura Siegemund 6-4, 6-3. Tomorrow, she’ll get Petra Kvitova.
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