Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching was knocked out in the first round of the doubles at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, England, on Thursday, despite fighting back after losing the first set.
Chan and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia, who were trailing 3-1 against second seeds Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic on Wednesday when rain delayed the match until the following day, lost the first set 7-5, but fought back to win the second 6-4 and force a super tiebreak.
However, the second seeds proved too strong in the decider at the Edgbaston Priory Club, completing a 7-5, 4-6, 10-6 victory in 1 hour, 26 minutes.
Both pairings saved four of eight break-point chances while also converting four of eight, but the second seeds edged the total points won 73 to 72 to set up a quarter-final against Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic, who defeated wild-cards Eugenie Bouchard and Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3.
Chan’s elder sister, Chan Yung-jan, and Zheng Jie of China were due to play wild-cards Simona Halep of Romania and Heather Watson of Britain in the quarter-finals late yesterday.
In the singles on Thursday, Sabine Lisicki, the record-breaking German who would love to atone for her tearful loss in the 2013 Wimbledon final, produced another stunning grass-court performance to reach the quarter-finals.
On Wednesday, Lisicki launched 27 aces, a record for the WTA Tour, while beating 18-year-old Belinda Bencic. Twenty-fours later, she hit another eight plus a high proportion of winners as she won 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 against Magdalena Rybarikova, a former title holder in Birmingham.
Lisicki, who also holds the record for the fastest women’s serve — 211kph — hits her ground-strokes as hard as anyone on the WTA Tour too, which dragged a resilient and imaginative performance from her Slovakian opponent.
Rybarikova used her a natural grass-court player’s skills with slice, varied serving and volleying, and after breaking back from 4-2, held three set points in the first set tiebreaker, but Lisicki played two of them excellently, was donated a double fault on the third and, after closing the set out with another fierce first serve, broke early in the second.
“I actually did feel in control,” said Lisicki, whose consistency has sometimes been called into question. “I felt that I was hitting the ball better and that I was building up the points better, was hitting cleaner. So the longer I played, I think the better I played.”
Her confidence has also appeared to rise with her past two performances.
Asked if, when playing the way she wanted, she could beat anybody on grass, she answered: “Yes — not only on this surface.”
Lisicki now has a repeat of the final she won four years ago against Daniela Hantuchova. The experienced Slovakian won 6-4, 7-5 against Michelle Larcher de Brito, who ousted titleholder Ana Ivanovic in the first round.
Karolina Pliskova, the tall and promising sixth-seeded Czech, won twice in the day — against Britain’s Johanna Konta and Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas — to earn a quarter-final with Carla Suarez Navarro, the third-seeded Spaniard, who appears to be adapting her clay-court instincts to grass.
Suarez Navarro has gained more wins on the WTA Tour than anyone else this year and her 6-3, 6-4 success against Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Russian two-time Grand Slam winner, was her 35th.
Top seed Halep’s grass-court form showed encouraging signs too. Her 6-1, 6-3 win against Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic earned her a meeting with Mladenovic, the cosmopolitan Frenchwoman with the big serve and the liking for grass, who has beaten two seeds.
Of Swiss domicile and Serbian parentage, Mladenovic produced another nicely judged tactical performance to beat 10th seed Strycova, last year’s runner-up, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
It followed an even better victory on Wednesday against Wimbledon finalist Bouchard, the fifth seed, in which Mladenovic reduced the high-profile Canadian to “absolute frustration.”
Friday’s other quarter-final was between unseeded Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic and Angelique Kerber, the tenacious fourth-seeded German who saved four break points in the sixth game against Jelena Jankovic, before accelerating to a 6-4, 6-2 victory over the former world No. 1.
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