WTA Tokyo quarterfinal preview: Angelique Kerber vs Karolina Pliskova

Two women who have been the world number one in 2017 face off in what is an intriguing quarterfinal clash in Tokyo.

WTA Tokyo quarterfinal preview: Angelique Kerber vs Karolina Pliskova
Pliskova and Kerber last faced off in the US Open final last year (Getty/Jean Catuffe)

One of the most interesting quarterfinal clashes at this year’s Toray Pan Pacific Open sees seventh seed Angelique Kerber take on second seed Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two women who have both been world number one at some point this season.

Kerber leads the head to head 5-3, and 4-2 on hard courts and the two have played some classic encounters in the past; the last time they met was in the US Open final last year, where the German prevailed in a thrilling three-set battle. This will, in fact, be Kerber’s first match against a top-ten player in 2017, following a below-par season to date, whilst Pliskova will be looking for a strong run after being usurped as the world number one last week.

Kerber and Pliskova embrace after the US Open final last year (Getty/Al Bello)
Kerber and Pliskova embrace after the US Open final last year (Getty/Al Bello)

This is the second match of the day in Tokyo, taking place around 14:00 local time and the winner will face either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Barbora Strycova in the semifinals.

So far in Tokyo

Pliskova potentially has an advantage as she has had to play one less match than Kerber to reach this stage, though both women are playing well in the Japanese capital.

Seeded second, Pliskova had the benefit of receiving a first round bye. A later start evidently did not bother the Czech however, with the second seed strolling past Magda Linette for the loss of just three games to reach the last eight.

Kerber during her second round win over Daria Kasatkina (Getty/Matt Roberts)
Kerber during her second round win over Daria Kasatkina (Getty/Matt Roberts)

Kerber has struggled immensely this season, though impressed as she saw off 2016 runner-up Naomi Osaka in straight sets in the first round. The seventh seed then put in another encouraging performance in the second round, seeing off Daria Kasatkina to set up a meeting against the world number four.

Analysis

On her day, Kerber is arguably the best defender on the WTA tour and will need to be doing this as well as she did in her opening two matches in Tokyo against Pliskova, who will be aiming to dictate play as much as possible; she has much more power than her quarterfinal opponent, and will surely look to exploit that advantage as much as possible.

Pliskova is always an attacking player and there is absolutely no reason as to why she won’t be here, though she must show an element of patience against Kerber, who is capable of getting a lot of balls back. Meanwhile, it was noticeable that against both Osaka and Kasatkina that Kerber was unafraid to attack, and she must be the same against Pliskova; she is at her best when she is willing to turn defense into attack, though may get fewer opportunities to do so against the Czech.

Pliskova will be the more attacking of the two (Getty/Koji Watanabe)
Pliskova will be the more attacking of the two (Getty/Koji Watanabe)

Serving is another key factor in this encounter. Pliskova is arguably the best server currently on tour and will undoubtedly pick up some cheap points from it, though can have bad serving days and Kerber may be able to thrive off that. However, the German herself has a vulnerable second serve, and cannot allow Pliskova too many opportunities to attack that.

Assessment

This is certainly an interesting match, especially considering it is between two of the bigger stars of the WTA tour, and unlike earlier in the season it is now perhaps a little more open, with Kerber seemingly a little more confident with her tennis this week and Pliskova having not quite reached the heights of the spring in recent tournaments.

Despite that, Pliskova will head into this match as the favorite and should have a little too much for the two-time Grand Slam champion. However, with Kerber playing a little more freely, it most likely won’t be easy.

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova in three sets