World No.1 Simona Halep’s Madrid Open hat-trick hopes bit the dust as she was overpowered 6-4 6-3 in the quarter-finals by an inspired Czech Karolina Pliskova.
Halep, who has won the tournament for the last two years, had looked imperious on her way to the last eight, dropping only nine games in three matches including Wednesday’s win against Pliskova’s twin sister Kristyna.
But her winning streak in the Spanish capital ended at 15 matches as her 26-year-old opponent continued her impressive form on the red clay having won the Stuttgart title last month.
“I was feeling very well in the rallies what we played, even from my backhand side,” Pliskova told wtatour.com.
“My forehand was working. I think I played one of my best matches this year for sure, and for sure on clay in my life.”
Halep said: “All the credit to her – she really was moving very well and also hitting the balls, the serve.”
It was sixth seed Pliskova’s first claycourt victory over Halep and it was the kind of authoritative performance that will turn a few heads as the French Open looms later this month.
She will next face compatriot Petra Kvitova, like Pliskova is on a nine-match unbeaten run following an impressive 6-4 6-0 win over Daria Kasatkina.
— WTA (@WTA) May 10, 2018
Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens continued her impressive week as she backed up a third-round win over world No.2 Caroline Wozniacki to beat Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals.
Unseeded Bertens, who reached the French Open semis two years ago, recovered from losing the first set to win 4-6 6-2 6-3 and set up a semi-final with Caroline Garcia, who eased past local hopeful Carla Suarez Navarro.
Russian former world No.1 Sharapova has shown only flashes of the play that has earned her five Grand Slam titles since returning from a doping ban last year.
She arrived in Madrid on the back of three consecutive first-round defeats and, while three wins on the Spanish clay hinted at better things, the 31-year-old said there is still a way to go as she gears up for Roland Garros.
“You can’t keep giving yourself a pat on the back. It was great to get those wins against those few players. But there’s a reason I came up short today,” said Sharapova, languishing down at 52 in the rankings.
“I go back to the drawing board and start over again.”
Bertens’ win over Wozniacki meant Halep will stay as world No.1 for at least another week, but the Romanian had no answer to Pliskova on centre court.
She quickly shrugged off the loss, however, saying she would now focus on Rome next week before turning her thoughts to another attempt to land a first grand slam title.
“I’m not stressing myself about the (ranking) points,” said Halep, who has another sackload of points to defend in Rome having reached last year’s final.
“I’m not stressing myself about this busy schedule.
“I just want to enjoy it. I enjoy it. I’m looking forward already to start the next tournament. There is no pressure. I feel like it’s an opportunity to play my best tennis.”
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