PRAGUE, May 2, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
When No. 1 seed Karolina Pliskova (World. No. 5) withdrew because of a viral illness and No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Anastasija Sevastova was upset in the first round, it opened up the draw in the J & T Banka Prague Open, a WTA International event in Prague, Czech Republic.
As quarter-final round play began Thursday on the red clay Centre Court at TK Sparta Praha, the final eight consisted of three seeds – No. 3 Wang Qiang, No. 6 Katerina Siniakova and No. 9 Barbora Strycova – plus a qualifier, a wild card and a lucky loser.
So much for the seeds going according to plan.
However, with three Czechs among the quarterfinalists – and an all-Czech matchup between Siniakova and Strycova – it guaranteed that there would be at least one countrywoman advancing to Friday’s semifinals on home soil. With 2018 winner Petra Kvitova not defending her title, there will be a new champion crowned on Saturday.
First, unheralded Bernarda Pera of the United States upset World No. 16 Wang from China, the highest-ranked quarterfinalist, 6-0, 6-7 (5), 6-3, after squandering two match points in the second set. Next, Czech wild card Karolina Muchova cruised over Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia, 6-3, 6-4. Then, Strycova dominated Siniakova, 6-1, 6-2, in the all-Czech affair, and, finally, qualifier Jil Teichmann of Switzerland beat lucky loser Tamara Korpatsch of Germany, 6-2, 6-1 The winners advanced to Friday’s semifinals.
.@jilteichmann advances to her first career WTA semifinal!
— WTA (@WTA) 2. Mai 2019
The 105th-ranked Pera, a 24-year-old Croatian-born American who previously lost to the Chinese No. 1 Wang in straight sets at Indian Wells in March, started quickly and bageled her opponent in the opening set of their two hour and six minute match. In search of her first career title, Pera broke Wang eight times in 15 opportunities and won an equal number of points on her serve and returns (48 each). She outpointed Wang 96-80 and closed out the match on her third match-point opportunity by hitting her 29th forehand winner. It is the biggest victory of Pera’s young career and she’s advanced to just her second tour-level semifinal.
“I think I got a little tight, especially at 4-1. My forehand started to get short and she started dictating the point,” Pera said after her win, quoted by WTATennis.com. “This will definitely give me more confidence. She’s a great player and I feel great for getting through this match.”
Next, Pera will face 106th-ranked Czech wild card Muchova, who advanced over No. 113 Vikhlyantseva in one hour and 27 minutes. Both Pera and Muchova are projected to enter the Top 100 on Monday following their respective runs in Prague. For Muchova, this will be her Top 100 debut.
In the other half of the draw, No. 39 Strycova beat compatriot No. 44 Siniaková for the fourth time in five meetings, all on clay. She won 74 percent of her service points and dropped just 10 points on her serve. Next, Strycova will oppose Teichmann, ranked No. 146, for the first time. Teichmann, like Muchova, is playing in her first WTA semifinal.
“The first thing, I think, is that I was in the zone,” the 33-year-old Strycova said of her win over Siniakova, 22, as quoted by the WTA website. “I was just focusing on what I have to do on the court, just on my game which was working very well, and I was moving very well.”
Of the four who reached the semifinals, only Strycova has won a WTA singles title. She lifted trophies at Quebec City in 2011 and Linz in 2017.
In the doubles final, top seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic will face Anna Kalinskaya of Russia and Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia. Melichar and Peschke were Wimbledon finalists last year while Kalinskaya and Kuzmova’s reached their first doubles final earlier this season at St. Petersburg.
No. 9 Barbora Strycova d. No. 6 Katerina Siniakova, 6-1, 6-2
Q-Jil Teichmann d. LL-Tamara Korpatsch, 6-2, 6-1
Bernarda Pera d. No. 3 Wang Qiang, 6-0, 6-7 (5), 6-3
WC-Karolina Muchova d. Natalia Vikhlyantseva, 6-3, 6-4
No. 1 Nicole Melichar/Kveta Peschke, d. WC-Denisa Allertova/Teresa Smitkova, 6-4, 1-6, 10-8
Anna Kalinskaya/Viktoria Kuzmova d. Dalila Jakupovic/Paula Kania, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 10-1
Friday’s order of play
Centre Court / From 11 a.m.
Bernarda Pera vs. WC-Karolina Muchova
No. 9 Barbora Strycova vs. Q-Jil Teichmann
No. 1 Nicole Melichar/Kveta Peschke vs. Anna Kalinskaya/Viktoria Kuzmova