Angelique Kerber put in one of her most impressive performances season to reach the last four at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, edging past world number four Karolina Pliskova in two tight sets to record her first top-20 win of 2017.
Pliskova was in fact the German’s first top-ten opponent of the season following an extremely below-par season for the two-time Grand Slam champion, though Kerber was able to take the first set on a tiebreak and then converted a break point for the first time in 13 attempts in the final game to seal a 7-6(5), 7-5 victory over the second seed in an hour and 49 minutes.
There is no doubt that Kerber could have perhaps made life slightly easier for herself, missing eight break points before missing a further four before finally closing out the match in the Czech’s final service game. However, the German must be encouraged by her own serving, saving all five break points against her and winning 69 percent of service points.
Kerber will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinals. The two faced off in the Monterrey final earlier this season, with the Russian prevailing in three sets.
Impressive Kerber edges past Pliskova for season-best victory
Pliskova was arguably the favorite for this match heading in, despite being slightly below her best in recent weeks, though an arguably improving Kerber was able to take advantage of the world number four’s recent dip in form and record a sixth victory over her opponent.
It was the German who got off to the better start, forcing three break points in the fifth game of the match, though she failed to convert any as Pliskova improved and eventually forced two break points of her own at 4-3; Kerber was able to save both.
After Kerber had saved those break points, the rest of the opening set remained fairly tight, with neither women able to force more break points as it went to a tiebreak. Pliskova managed to fight from a mini break down, though Kerber forced a set point by virtue of serving first in the breaker, and a costly double fault by the Czech handed over the set to the seventh seed.
After losing that first set in such disappointing style, Pliskova nearly fell behind early in the second set, though the world number managed to save five break points serving at 0-1 to potentially stop her opponent running away with the encounter. The Czech then had her own chance to break when Kerber was serving at 2-2, though also failed to capitalize.
Neither woman was exactly cruising through their service games, though there were no more break points until Kerber was forced to save one serving at 5-5. That would prove key for both women, with the German applying extreme pressure to Pliskova in the next game, eventually taking a fifth match point to secure her first top-ten win since the WTA Finals last year.