Azarenka knocks out defending champion Pliskova in Stuttgart

Wilson Blade v7 tennis racquet

Victoria Azarenka completed the quarterfinal field at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix by stunning defending champion Karolina Pliskova in a late night thriller.

After her first-round victory over Vera Zvonareva in Stuttgart, Azarenka said that her preparation for Pliskova would simply be sleep, as she was still immensely tired from her long travel after playing Fed Cup in Australia at the weekend, and it seems the former world No.1 fully recharged and was ready to notch up her second Top 5 victory in 2019.

After a close first set escaped Azarenka, the Belarusian finally converted a break point and grabbed a 2-1 lead in the second set. Even though Azarenka dropped serve right afterwards, her break point conversion in the second set was perfect 3/3, while Pliskova’s was just 1/5 and the match was taken into the third set.

The 61st-ranked Azarenka fought hard to hold serve in the decider, while Pliskova breezed through service games — in this set there was a big difference in their first serve percentage (72% Pliskova, 46% Azarenka). However, Azarenka stayed mentally strong and patient, saved all three break points she faced and at the end profited from some untimely Pliskova’s errors to celebrate victory after two hours and 10 minutes of play, 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Next up for Azarenka is eighth seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, who took out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3 6-2. Other quarterfinal pairs are top seed Naomi Osaka vs. Donna Vekic, seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova vs. third seed Petra Kvitova, and sixth seed Kiki Bertens vs. fifth seed Angelique Kerber.

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