This year’s edition of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix marked the tournament’s milestone 40th. The week began with seven seeds in the draw after the withdrawal of Dominika Cibulkova, who was projected to be the third seed, and come Thursday, two seeds have bit the dust in Agnieszka Radwanska and reigning French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza. The day prior, fourth seed Simona Halep and Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit have confirmed their berths in the quarterfinals, thus leaving six spots left up for grabs in the last eight in Stuttgart.
Siegemund and Sevastova kick off with upset wins
Last year’s runner-up and local girl Laura Siegemund kicked off proceedings on Centre Court as she took on 2009 champion and eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. The German, who reached her first semifinal of the year earlier this month in Charleston, continued her recent turnaround of form as she broke her Russian opponent’s serve a total of six times en route to a 6-3, 6-4 win, thus confirming her place in her second consecutive Premier-level quarterfinal.
Sixth seed Johanna Konta then took the court for her last 16 clash where she faced Latvian Anastasija Sevastova. Having won two of their three encounters prior, Konta, the top-ranked Brit, looked to continue her stellar form this year and register another quarterfinal showing. However, Sevastova had other ideas as she displayed her clay court prowess in exacting revenge over Konta, handing the Brit her sixth loss of the season.
Sharapova impresses over Makarova
Three-time champion Maria Sharapova and fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova concluded the day session, in what was their seventh career meeting. 30-year-old Sharapova, in the second match of her comeback from a doping ban, faced strong resistance from Makarova in a 49-minute long opening set. Both players were untouchable on serve with none of the first 10 games going to deuce.
Makarova then created a chance to break with Sharapova serving at 5-5, the first break point of the match, but a costly backhand error saw those hopes fade away as Sharapova went on to hold her serve before going on to convert her second set point in the ensuing game, thus breaking Makarova to rack in the first set 7-5.
After exchanging service holds in the first three games of the second set, Sharapova took control once more as she ran away with the next four games, breaking her opponent’s serve twice in the process, to seal the victory in 81 minutes and advance to her fourth quarterfinal in Stuttgart. The score stood at 7-5, 6-1. With this win, Sharapova also maintained her perfect winning record over her younger compatriot.
Mladenovic sees off two-time defending champion
The opening match of evening session saw top seed and two-time defending champion Angelique Kerber face off against the in-form Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic. In the opening game, Mladenovic was shaky as the top-ranked French player immediately saw herself facing break point on two occasions. She bravely staved off both and looked to have settled down when she broke Kerber in the following game. Mladenovic went on to reel off four of the next six games to claim the set six games to two.
The second set had the same storyline as the first, Mladenovic fighting off a couple of break points in the first game before breaking her German opponent’s once more. After a couple of service holds, Kerber stepped up as she broke back in the fifth game to level the set at 3-3. The next six games saw both women hold their serves but it was Mladenovic who pulled the trigger in the closing game of the match as she broke the top seed’s serve to 15 to win 6-2, 7-5, it was her first ever win over the German.
Pliskova fills up last quarterfinal spot
In the closing singles match of the day, the second-seeded Karolina Pliskova went head-to-head against America’s CoCo Vandeweghe, a clash of big-hitters. Czech number one Pliskova, who is on hot form in 2017 thus far, riding a 23-4 season record, was looking to get her clay court campaign of to a good start. The opening set saw both players hold serve throughout until the tiebreak where Pliskova caught fire, racing off to a commanding 5-1 lead. The Czech went on to convert her first set point to seal the tiebreak.
Vandeweghe managed to keep things competitive in the second set. Despite dropping serve in the third game of the set, she broke her Czech opponent to love in the sixth game to get back on serve. However, Pliskova remained steady throughout as she saw off a further three break point before finally seeing off the American on her third match point in an hour and 43 minutes when Vandeweghe’s return went into the net. Both womens are now levelled at two-all in their head-to-head.
Over on Court One, a pair of veterans, Spain’s Carla Suárez Navarro and Russia’s Elena Vesnina, did battle for a quarterfinal berth. The Spanish number two Suarez Navarro needed an hour and 26 minutes to see off Vesnina in straight sets, thus recording her fourth successive quarterfinal appearance in Stuttgart.
Sharapova will commence quarterfinal action Friday as the Russian takes on Kontaveit, the sole qualifier and youngest name left in the draw. That match will be succeeded by Mladenovic-Suárez Navarro and the winner of this match plays the winner of the former in the semifinals. Pliskova and Halep, the only seeds still standing in Stuttgart, headline the evening session as they go up against Siegemund and Sevastova respectively.