Top seed Karolina Pliskova is thriving in the “holiday” atmosphere at the Aegon Open Nottingham having booked a place in the quarter-final.
Soaking up the rays, Pliskova put in a devastating display to fire down 16 aces and surge past American Anna Tatishvili 6-1, 6-3 on centre court.
“It’s great I have my boyfriend here, my sister is with me, my coach isn’t here, so it’s like a holiday. Well a little bit more free,” joked the world No.17.
Wielding a blistering serve, Pliskova stormed through the first set in 20 minutes. “Yeh I think the serve frustrated her today in the first set, into the second, before she improved. I hit almost every first serve in the first set which really helped, especially on the grass.”
Sister Kristyna had lost to world No.107 Tatishvili in the first round but Karolina admitted her sister offered little tactical advice in preparation for Wednesday’s contest.
“She hardly gave me anything,” quipped Pliskova. “I played Tatishvili in the US Open last year so I know her game.”
The top seed partnered sister Kristyna on Tuesday to defeat the British pairing of Laura Robson and Freya Christie on a match tie-break and insisted the extra action benefited her singles.
“I think every match you play especially if you win is important. I just came straight from clay so I needed matches,” added the Czech. “It’s better than practising and I enjoyed playing with her, it’s something different from a normal tournament, we haven’t played together for a long time so it was fun. It was very close in the end which I think helped me with my serve and returns today.”
However third seed Caroline Wozniacki’s comeback to the tour was halted by Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in an enthralling two-hour battle.
An ankle injury had sidelined the former world No.1 for 10 weeks prior to heading onto the Nottingham turf and despite the defeat, Wozniacki is delighted to be back in matchplay without pain.
“Yeh 7-5 in third is a match with plenty of ups and downs. She played really well so hats off to her. She cracked her shots and stepped it up at the end,” added the Dane. “At the end of the day I’m just happy to be playing again and it’s a step in the right direction. The main thing is my ankle is holding up.
“I’m obviously disappointed to go out today, especially from being so close. I’ve got to go back and work hard. I got a couple of matches and hopefully it’s onwards and upwards from here.”
Wozniacki snatched the initiative to lead 3-0 but was hauled back by the firepower from the world No.97.
Into a tie-break and Wozniacki combined stunning last ditch defence and clattering returns to steal a 7-6(5) opener.
The momentum was sharply turned as a collection of rasping forehands secured Kontveit a break for 4-2. The Estonian maintained that advantage and forced a decider at 6-3 before a barrage of groundstrokes chalked up 4-1 in her favour.
Wozniacki clawed back four games in a row but Kontaveit regained her composure and a smart drop volley, along with three consecutive winners, stole a break to love.
Serving out the 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 triumph, Kontaveit was thrilled with one of the finest victories of her fledging career.
“Yeh I’m obviously very happy, she’s a really tough player so I just kept fighting, doing my best and I’m very happy to be through,” said the 20-year-old.
“The tactic in general was to put her under pressure, to play aggressive is how I play,” added Kontaveit having broken six times.
“I guess I got a little nervous but then loosened up a bit and was swinging more freely from 4-5 down (in the decider). 4-1 is far away from victory and I felt the pressure. The games were close but I managed to stay loose and get the win."
Fourth seed Monica Puig has used the Rio Olympics as inspiration for her fine start to the season as she prepares for Wimbledon.
A maiden WTA title in Sydney was followed by third round showings at the Australian Open and French Open before heading to the green grass at Nottingham.
“For my country it’s really important, just to be able to add another athlete to their roster is just great. We aren’t like a country like Brazil or Argentina, that have so many athletes. We have 38, it’s a small delegation but we’re all so close together and we know how hard all of us have worked. It’s an honour to say I’ve made the Olympics team for Puerto Rico, and to enjoy that with my teammates is going to be something special,” declared the world No.49.
“I’m very proud of this accomplishment, at the begging of the season the Olympics was just a mere dream because I was nowhere near qualifying for the team. It’s been such a surreal first half of the year and I’m just enjoying the ride for now.”
Having now qualified for the Olympics, the fourth seed is relishing being on the grass and is certainly maintaining her form in England.
The 22-year-old has breezed into the quarter-finals for the loss of just six games.
On Wednesday Puig overawed qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito in under an hour 6-4, 6-0 having broken at the first chance to set the tone for an emphatic win.
“I’m feeling really solid in every part of my game, just trying to continue this good form and play as smart as I can,” said Puig.
“It’s always important to start off with a break, so you have a way of feeling comfortable going into your first service game. That helped me feel more relaxed throughout the first set and I was able to run away with it in the second.
“I held my own on my serve today pretty well and she obviously likes to get the first strike on the ball, so I tried to take that away from her on return was very important. I also liked the way I was moving her around the court because she was hitting some incredible shots that I had to chase down, that I was able to turn a defensive position into an offensive situation was very nice.”
The fourth seed is targeting a strong run in Nottingham as a platform to reach previous heights at Wimbledon.
“I’ve made the fourth round at Wimbledon once, I know what it’s like to play well on the grass but it’s all about transitioning from a much slower game to a faster game. I like that, the faster courts and I’m happy with the way I started.
“I really like it here, as the first grass tournament it’s special. You arrive and the courts are brand new and you can’t wait to get going and rip them up. I’m playing well, I’m in a really good rhythm and I’m excited with what’s happening in my year but let’s see how well I can prepare myself for Wimbledon as that’s the place I want to play my best.”
Thursday sees the return of British No.1 Johanna Konta, who will take on China’s Saisai Zheng for a place in the quarter-finals, whilst Tara Moore will vie with eighth seed Christina McHale for a last eight berth.