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Briefs from Birmingham: Hantuchova wins marathon

Francesca Schiavone returns a shot from Petra Kvitova in the fourth round.

Wimbledon.com's thoughts on the action on the fifth day of the Aegon Classic at the WTA event at Edgbaston Priory Club...

On a day of weather-related frustration at the Edgbaston Priory Club, Daniela Hantuchova and Francesca Schiavone (pictured above) did their best to lift the mood of the crowd as the stalwarts fought a remarkable three-set battle in the quarter-finals.

In a match lasting three hours and 23 minutes, Hantuchova beat the fifteenth seed Schiavone 6-7 (8-10) 6-4 7-6 (7-3) to book a place in the last four after twice looking on the brink of defeat. The Slovakian was 4-1 down in the second set and then 3-0 down in the deciding tiebreak before fighting back in a display of true grit and determination.

Former world No.5 Hantuchova may currently be ranked at No.60 but spoke earlier this week of her aim to return to the top of the game at the age of 30. Shots like the stunning forehand pass down the line at 4-3 in the tiebreak show that she may still be capable of pushing up the rankings once again.

“I think the tiebreak was some of the best tennis I have played in a long, long time and some of those shots are going to stay with me for a long while,” said Hantuchova, a former Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2002.

“I never gave up and I kept fighting for every point. It was tough and I had to change my strategy in the second set because I couldn't move so well and had to go for it a bit more.

“On grass everything can change so quickly. Francesca is such a great competitor as well, so I think we were both enjoying the battle and we have so much respect for each other so it's always nice to play this kind of match.”

Not for the first time this week, 16-year-old Donna Vekic showed composure way beyond her years as the Croatian knocked out the third seed Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-1 in a match which was interrupted five times by the rain.

Vekic recovered quickly from a 2-0 deficit in the first set and did not blink when serving for the match, hitting a massive unreturnable serve to clinch the win. It is tempting to wonder if Birmingham is where this rising star will claim her first WTA title.

“When I got to the final in Tashkent [last year], I possibly wanted it too much, so here I'm just taking one match at a time,” said Vekic. “It would mean a lot to me to win my first title on the grass, which is my favourite surface.”

On her way to the final in Tashkent, Vekic beat Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets and the pair will meet once again here after the Slovakian took just 51 minutes to beat 18-year-old Madison Keys 6-3 6-0.

It was an impressive display from Rybarikova, a former champion here in 2009, who clearly can play some of her best tennis on grass, although she has strangely never got past the first round at Wimbledon in five attempts.

Fifth seed Sabine Lisicki managed to complete her third-round victory on Thursday evening just before darkness fell but there was no such luck in her quarter-final against Alison Riske after bad light halted play at 2-2 in the deciding set.  The pair will resume this morning, with the winner later returning to play Hantuchova.

Click here for live scores, statistics and draws from the Aegon Classic

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