By Ros Satar, in Stuttgart
- Frustrating day with three straight retirements in the last three matches
- Quarter-final field set
STUTTGART, GERMANY – Two former champions broke down by the roadside, three straight retirements but the quarter-finals are set for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
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At the start of the tournament, four champions who have had the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title locked down since 2011 were all in the starting line up. By the end of the second round, all were gone, and we will have a first time champion on Sunday.
Simona Halep  v Coco Vandeweghe
- H2H: Halep leads 1-0
- Clay Credentials – Halep 1-0
In their last meeting on the dirt, Simona Halep pretty much demolished Coco Vandeweghe for the loss of just two games on her way to defending her Madrid title, and having come through a tough opener and a set down against Magdalena Rybarikova, Halep would have to be the overwhelming favourite coming into this.
Vandeweghe’s assertions that she is barely on speaking terms with the surface is somewhat thrown off kilter by the way in which she dismantled defending champion Laura Siegemund. In fairness to the German, she only made her return to the tour in March, starting with a $25K on clay and a couple of rounds in Charleston and here (the less we say about the mud-bath in Lugano, the better).
The American was typically forthright when looking ahead to the match-up against the World No. 1.
“She beat the crap out of me on clay in Madrid. Well, I’m going to handle it hopefully a lot better, get a few more games out there. Hopefully, I get to six before she does, if not I’ll get to seven before she does, you know one or the other.
“Hopefully, there’s only improvements for me against her. She is a great player definitely. I would assume, I don’t know, but clay is the favourite surface of her. I’ll just try best out there and compete hard. Like I said that is something I can control day in and day out.”
Halep will just be relieved that she will not be facing Siegemund for a third time in a row here, having lost to her twice in a row.
Elina Svitolina  v Caroline Garcia
- H2H: Garcia leads 2-1
- Clay Credentials: First meeting on the surface
Fast forward to 2018 and Svitolina has already scooped the Brisbane and Dubai titles this year, while Garcia is still hunting for her first hardware of the year. The Frenchwoman came back from a set down against Maria Sharapova to finally slay the ghost of THAT French Open encounter, and was pushed again by Svitolina’s talented compatriot Marta Kostyuk, while Svitolina came from a set down and looked more in control for a set and a half before Marketa Vondrousova had to retire.
Svitolina said: “I was not expecting an easy match. She already played one tournament on clay and a couple of matches here. She was playing good tennis. I saw I think her last round of qualies and then I saw a little bit of her in the first round. She was striking the ball really good and was moving pretty good. I was expecting a tough match. I was just trying to find my way into the match and this was the goal as a first match on clay, it’s always tough and I was just trying to be ready to fight and to go through tough moments.
“I didn’t feel my game 100 percent and that’s why we decided to hit a little bit more: I had to work on some things. There are always lots of things to work on, especially after someone retires, then you want to finish it on a good note. That’s why I went back on court just 20 minutes more never killed nobody (laughs).”
She last faced Garcia in Singapore, and this will be their first clash on clay.
“We played a couple of times last year, tough matches. I will just try to be there with my game 100 percent, be ready for the fight and to have tough rallies.”
Garcia concurred: “It’s going to be a different match, different conditions and clay court. So, it’s going to be a battle against Elina and against a top player it’s always a battle.
“I have to play better than I played today, less free points because she is not giving anything to the opponent. But, yes, I’m always looking forward to this kind of matches. In these kinds of matches I can learn the most and improve. So, it’s always a pleasure to play these matches.”
Anett Kontaveit v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
- H2H: Tied 1-1
- Clay Credentials – none – they met twice on hard courts
You have to feel for the Centre Court crowd – the final day session match was a retirement for a tearful Vondrousova, swiftly followed by a clearly struggling Angelique Kerber who lost eight games on the trot (well, limp) before bowing out. Then one set in, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova got the better of Garbiñe Muguruza who pulled out with a lower back injury.
Actually we could be in for a bit of a treat – there pair are split in their head to head and their matches have looked competitive with a single break separating them in their sets.
Karolina Pliskova  v Jelena Ostapenko 
- H2H: Pliskova leads 2-1
- Clay Credentials: First meeting on clay
The evening will finish with perhaps the two players that have skirted under the radar especially on a day of drama elsewhere around them. Reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko has actually impressed a lot at the start of the European clay court swing, as the pressure and inquisition mount the closer she gets to Paris.
She looked like she had adjusted to the slick conditions pretty well with a routine win over Zarina Diyas, while Karolina Pliskova had a trickier time against qualifier Veronika Kudermetova. Her serve though has seemingly returned to the Czech after perhaps a little walkabout in recent tournaments.
Pliskova explained: “I think energy was missing in the serve and the rhythm, the timing. So, it’s nothing bad with the serve but I just maybe wanted too much, to have the points, to have the aces, I was not really there. It’s normal that the players are going to try to read your serve better than maybe in the last couple of years. So, I thought that maybe they were returning a little better this year. So, I didn’t have that many points from the serve, that many aces. But I found it here. So, hopefully it can stay for a while.
“It’s going to be for sure an interesting match. I think she has a very good result on clay last year but I don’t know if she is really a clay court player. So, I think the game what she is trying to play is still aggressive. So, maybe a little bit similar to the opponent I had today. So, I think that was a good practice, good preparation for her. I think I will get my chances. So, for sure I know I’m stronger with my serve than she is. So, hopefully I can get chances on the return and hold my serve.”
Play begins at the Porsche Tennis Grans Prix at 1:30pm (12:30pm BST).
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