Fourth seed Alison Riske’s wait for a title in Nottingham will go on after she was knocked out of the Aegon Open by Magdalena Rybarikova.
Rybarikova won an error-strewn battle in windy conditions, 6-2, (5)6-7, 7-5 to continue her unbeaten streak on grass this year as Riske’s usually dependable backhand fell apart.
The 28-year-old – returning from a lengthy injury spell – has now chalked up seven straight victories on the surface. The streak comes courtesy of the Surbiton title she won last week, defeating Britain’s Heather Watson in the final.
“In such conditions its very hard to play a beautiful match but I think I mixed it quite well”
“Obviously it’s amazing that I’m playing in the quarter-final after I won Surbiton because I’m pretty tired but in Surbiton I won every match in two sets so that’s also helped”, Rybarikova said cheerfully after the match.
“On grass its very difficult to play and I feel tired but I’m very very happy that I’ve won this match because its very difficult to play against Alison.
“She’s a great player on grass – I think its her best surface. I knew it was going to be very difficult and when we always play each other its always a tough match. I couldn’t be more happy than now and I’m very pleased I’m in the quarter-final.
“I love to play on grass so its also my favourite surface so we’re both kind of similar in that. It was very tough conditions, I think the wind was crazy today.
“But I have to say i’m really used to it because in Surbiton every day was so windy but today was even more difficult because it was a different wind so it wasn’t a beautiful match. In such conditions its very hard to play a beautiful match but I think I mixed it quite well.
“I was just trying to change rhythm all the time. I was hoping I was going to serve a little bit better than today but as I said before it is very difficult to serve in such a wind.”
Rybarikova will seek her eighth consecutive win when she faces American qualifier Kristie Ahn for the first time on Friday in the quarter-final.
Meanwhile Alison Riske will be disappointed with her performance in the key moments after being the more impressive player for large portions of the match.
After losing the first set comfortably, Riske was dominant for much of the second and third sets but could not do the necessary damage on vital points, converting just 4 of her 12 break point opportunities.
Sunshine couldn’t mask tough playing conditions
Adjusting to the swirling wind proved to be the early obstacle for both players who endured a nervous start. Magdalena Rybarikova came flying out of the blocks, breaking Riske to love, before the American returned the favour in the following game.
It was the Slovakian who continued to apply the early pressure though. Her big serving and forehand in particular were causing Riske all sorts of problems. In the fifth game of the set Rybarikova broke again after Riske pushed a backhand well long.
Riske had a chance to break back immediately but some wayward shots at deuce left her audibly annoyed. Instead it was Rybarikova who exploited Riske’s frustrations, breaking again for a 5-2 first set lead. She made no mistake, serving out the first set in comfortable fashion to continue her solid form from Surbiton.
Alison Riske takes advantage of Rybarikova nerves
With the cross-court wind picking up at the start of the second set it was evident that both players were struggling on serve. Rybarikova was often having to repeat her ball toss while Riske was taking longer than usual at times to allow the wind to die down.
Similarly to the first set, it was the Slovakian who struck first, breaking after a poorly executed one-two punch from Riske. Suddenly though, the possibility of a WTA quarter-final seemed to weigh heavily on her mind. She was immediately broken back after a wayward backhand and her intensity notably dropped.
Erratic backhands were seemingly the move of the day as Riske’s began to fall apart in the second set. Her usually dependable stroke, which she plays with her left knee almost flat on the ground, produced a catalogue of errors and gifted another break to her opponent.
This gave Magdalena Rybarikova the chance to serve for the match at 5-3 and she fought her way to a match point. Aided by a net cord however, Riske was able to hang on, breaking after a marvellous return of serve and eventually forcing a tie-break.
In the tie-break it was Riske who took control with an early mini-break, eventually playing her way to three set points. A horribly missed overhead at 6-3 drew laughter from the American but she was less entertained by another unforced error immediately after.
Controversy would ensue on the final set point as Rybarikova cushioned a backhand cross-court. A call of ‘out’ from the lines judge left Rybarikova furious, adamant it had clipped the line. The call stood though and Riske took the set, with Rybarikova still reeling.
It’s super windy in Nottingham, I know you all are surprised.
— Tennis Inside Out (@TennisInsideOut) June 15, 2017
Magdalena Rybarikova hangs on to claim victory
The decision was clearly still on her mind at the beginning of the second set as Magdalena Rybarikova emerged very flat, barely hanging on. After a string of unsuccessful drop-shots it was an attempted serve volley that handed the break to Riske to give her a 3-1 lead.
Despite having the momentum on her side Riske’s backhand crumbled once again, gifting a break point to the Slovakian. A nervous forehand volley followed and the match returned to serve.
The third set continued to roll by in rather tepid, tense fashion. Neither player could make the breakthrough with both failing to make any headway on the crucial points.
In a tense affair the errors had been far more visible than the winners and it was only fitting that it was one of those that turned the match. Riske played a loose forehand gifting Rybarikova the vital break. The Slovakian would not make the same mistake twice, serving out the match at the second time to progress into the quarter-finals.
Her quarter-final appearance is the first at WTA level since last year’s Indian Wells where she lost to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.
She will now face Kristie Ahn on Friday in the quarter-finals of the Aegon Open Nottingham.