Ana Ivanovic meets Karolina Pliskova for a place in the quarterfinals of Stuttgart. The Czech leads their head-to-head 4-0.
How they got here
Ivanovic won her first round match against German qualifier Carina Witthoeft 7-6, 6-0. Pliskova had much more of a struggle In her opening match, a three set win over eighth seed and fellow Czech Lucie Safarova 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
Pliskova has won all four previous meetings against Ivanovic, including straight set wins this year in Sydney and Indian Wells. The Czech has won eight of the nine sets against the Serb, only surrendering more than four games in two of those nine sets. All four of their meetings have come in the past three years with most of them coming at bigger WTA events such as this one. Their first ever meeting was at the US Open, where Pliskova knocked out the Serb in the second round.
What to expect
Both players have strong serves and powerful games. Ivanovic has the slightly harder, but less reliable first stroke. Pliskova will most likely feast on the Serb's second serve as it is one of the worst in the game for a top 20 player. The Czech hits her serve slightly less harder than Ivanovic, but it is definitely more reliable. The dominant shots off the ground should be the Pliskova forehand and the Ivanovic backhand.
Expect Pliskova to pick on Ivanovic's forehand as it has a tendency to break down when put under pressure. Neither player moves particularly well, so they should be about even in that department. There isn't much clay form to go off of as this is their first big tournament on the surface this year. If there's one clear advantage Ivanovic does have, it's her success at this tournament as she is a former finalist at this event, falling to Maria Sharapova In the 2014 final while also boasting a French Open title in 2008.
Pliskova in straight sets. Although Ivanovic has much more experience and is more than capable of playing on the red dirt, her second serve will be exposed by Pliskova's powerful groundstrokes. Conversely, the Czech should be able to use her height to make her serve even more imposing for Ivanovic. As previously mentioned, Ivanovic's forehand tends to break down in key moments and Pliskova also has the confidence of her dominance of the Serb on what is probably Ivanovic's preferred surface. Expect a close match, but Pliskova should make it five for five all-time against Ivanovic.