Petkovic, Mladenovic, Strycova through to Linz Quarterfinals

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On an action-packed fourth day at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz event, German wild card Andrea Petkovic booked her place into the Linz quarterfinals, with a 6-1 6-3 win over fellow German Tatjana Maria.

It was a very different situation for Petkovic to find herself in for a number of reasons. The previous day she had beaten a Top 10 player in Julia Goerges, so now Petkovic had to really deal with the pressure and expectation of being the one expected to claim victory. Petkovic seemed to have no issue as she settled into the contest very well, breaking in the second game of the contest, and she did not really look back in many ways.

It was a considerably different ball to deal with in comparison to the last match against Goerges. Maria tried to frustrate Petkovic with her ability to change the rhythm of a rally and her tendency to play as many different balls as possible in order to prevent Petkovic from really staying in a consistent rhythm from the baseline.

Petkovic secured her second break of the match to go up 5-1 and served out the first set with very little fuss. The question was whether the wildcard could maintain her dominance over the match-up. Winning three of the first four games of the second set really illustrated the calmness in Petkovic’s play on the whole, but Maria started to get better and become more of a persistent challenge right at the end. Petkovic held firm, stayed strong and did just about enough to prevent the match from being drawn into a tough three set tussle and after the match she talked about how she had to use different weapons that she does not necessarily always use in order to get the desired result.

“I think the match was fine and I think my level of play was fine, but I think it was a little stressful for me because it was a little outside of my comfort zone. I had to come into the net a lot. I had to play a few serve and volleys. I had to really focus and I was really trying to gather the right energy to pull off the right triggers. i think the result was great. It just took a lot of energy to pull it off. I enjoy these challenges. I enjoy playing those kind of players like Vinci and Maria, because it brings out the best in me. Sometimes also the worst. It takes you out of the normal tennis that you are used to playing and I think it is good to develop a few certain skills.”

Andrea Petkovic will now go on to face France’s Kristina Mladenovic as the Frenchwoman booked her spot in the final four with a tough 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win over good friend and doubles partner Timea Babos.

It was a match where both players were trying their utmost to find ways to use shock value to surprise their opponent. Babos and Mladenovic knew each other’s games inside out and it really did show in large stretches of the match. The match had its ebbs and flows, with many phases where both players could simply hardly find a way to find the court with regularity, but it was the more accomplished singles player Mladenovic who was able to manage her aggressive game that little bit better in the final stretch. The Frenchwoman needed two attempts to serve it out at 5-4 and at 6-5, but Babos’ unforced error count took a massive turn for the worst when it mattered and her dangerous threats off the return and in the rally were too brief to make a lasting impact on the scoreline in the third set.

Defending champion Barbora Strycova also safely made her way through the draw into the quarter-final as she defeated fellow Czech Kristyna Pliskova 6-0, 6-1 in a comfortable outing. The games of both players could not have been any more different. Strycova likes to use her variety, her deftness of touch, her feel from the baseline and in the forecourt and she finds different ways to upset the pace of the point for her opponent, but she does this with efficient footwork, and it was the efficient footwork that made a telling difference in this match-up.

Pliskova struggled to keep up with the pace. The Czech had started the week as a qualifying wildcard, but got into the main draw as a lucky loser, but her luck certainly ran out today. Pliskova lost all eleven of the first eleven games and was simply outclassed by Strycova in every department. The effectiveness of Pliskova’s left-handed first serve delivery was negated by the impact that Strycova was able to negotiate off of her backhand return, and she made sure that she exposed the weaker mobility of Pliskova, which has always been one of the major limitations in her game, and one of the reasons she’s not risen up the rankings as high as she would have liked.

Strycova keeps up the winning feeling and maintains the momentum she has. She’s had far more success in the doubles court, but winning is winning and the feel-good effect of returning as a singles champion seems to have had a lasting impact on the 32-year-old, who now will face Alison Van Uytvanck in a bout for a semi-final position.

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