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Karolina Pliskova vs Aryna Sabalenka Nature Valley International tennis live: Pliskova faces powerful Sabalenka in Eastbourne quarter-finals

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 27 Jun 2018
  • Karolina Pliskova vs Aryna Sabalenka is live from Eastbourne around 12.30pm local time/BST on Wednesday
  • First career meeting between the pair
Karolina Pliskova (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Karolina Pliskova continues her Nature Valley International title defence on Thursday when she takes on hard-hitting rising star Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.


Second seed and defending Eastbourne champion Karolina Pliskova seeks a return to the Nature Valley International semi-finals on Thursday against young powerhouse Aryna Sabalenka. Pliskova hasn’t had the best season so far in 2018, but the Czech has the ability to produce her best tennis from out of nowhere, and perhaps a return to Eastbourne - where she beat Caroline Wozniacki for the title 12 months ago - has sparked something in her? Sabalenka meanwhile has battled through three deciding-set matches already this week as she targets a spot in her first WTA grass-court semi-final. Pliskova and Sabalenka take to court around 12.30pm local time/BST on Thursday.

After a tough opening contest against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in which she actually lost more points but ended up winning the match, Pliskova enjoyed a more straightforward victory in her R16 clash with compatriot Barbora Strycova on Wednesday, registering a 6-3 6-4 triumph in 83 minutes. It was a tougher match than the scoreline suggests, with Strycova an extremely difficult opponent on grass, but Pliskova was able to manage the match effectively with her powerful baseline game. Coming off an opening round defeat in Birmingham last week to Magdalena Rybarikova, Pliskova feels she’s rounding into form nicely ahead of Wimbledon next week.

"I feel much better now than last week in Birmingham," Pliskova said. "I'm happy it's improving match by match, and hopefully tomorrow will be even better. I think I can serve better than I did today, but today was enough, so hopefully I can improve."

But Pliskova’s struggles in 2018 aren’t just limited to Birmingham last week - she failed to beat a top 20 player until the end of April in Stuttgart, but it was at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix where she showcased just how good she can be, producing a series of thunderous displays to beat Jelena Ostapenko, Anett Kontaveit and CoCo Vandeweghe on her way to the silverware, while her superb form continued into Madrid as she conquered Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep to reach the semi-finals - where her nine-match winning streak was snapped by eventual champion Petra Kvitova.


Pliskova however couldn’t maintain her form and momentum after Madrid, losing in her opening match in Rome and winning just three games in a third round Roland Garros exit to Maria Sharapova. It thus remains to be seen whether Pliskova is about to go on another spectacular run of form, or if another unexpected defeat is on the cards? Her next obstacle comes in the form of one of the most dangerous youngsters on tour.

Aryna Sabalenka (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Aryna Sabalenka continues to grow from strength to strength on tour, cementing herself as one of the sport’s brightest young talents. After starting 2017 at No. 146 in the world, Sabalenka has climbed to at least a projected mark of No. 38 courtesy of her run to the quarter-finals here in Birmingham, while her breakout season last year included helping Belarus reach their first Fed Cup final, while she also made the semi-finals in Tashkent and her first WTA final towards the end of the year in Tianjin, where it took Maria Sharapova to stop her in a quality title match.

Sabalenka didn’t have to wait long to find herself in another title match, but unfortunately she couldn’t get over the line in Lugano at the beginning of the clay season, where after beating the likes of Mihaela Buzarnescu, Polona Hercog and Camila Giorgi, she went down to Elise Mertens in the final. That result was part of a steady continuation of progress up the rankings for the 20-year-old in 2018, with Sabalenka also making quarter-finals in Shenzhen, Hobart and s-Hertogenbosch, while she also reached the third round at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

After a first round exit last week in Mallorca, Sabalenka has been in excellent tough in Eastbourne, registering a trio of three-set victories over Sachia Vickery, Julia Goerges and gaining some revenge over Elise Mertens (winning their R16 clash in a deciding set tiebreak) to storm into the quarter-finals.

Sabalenka and Pliskova will be squaring off for the first time in their careers - and it promises to be another tough match for Pliskova. Sabalenka is already one of the most powerful players on tour, but she’s still learning to find that balance in her game and consistency from match to match and week to week. Pliskova is somewhat more of an evolved version of Sabalenka, and given the way she navigated herself past the tricky Strycova, I think she should be able to subdue Sabalenka and move into the semi-finals.


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Karolina Pliskova vs Aryna Sabalenka Nature Valley International tennis live: Pliskova faces powerful Sabalenka in Eastbourne quarter-finals

Karolina Pliskova continues her Nature Valley International title defence on Thursday when she takes on hard-hitting rising star Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.

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