Pliskova downs Bellis to set up battle of former champs against Kanepi in Brisbane

Sport360 staff 20:47 03/01/2018
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Defending champion Karolina Pliskova kicked off her 2018 season in stunning fashion, easing past teenage prodigy Catherine “CiCi” Bellis 6-1, 6-1 in 53 minutes to reach the quarter-finals at the Brisbane International.

Pliskova, who held the world No. 1 ranking for eight weeks last year, had been dealing with an illness in the build-up to the tournament but looked in fine form on court on Wednesday.

“I think it was quite solid. I felt okay on the court. I had some matches already in the end of the first — well, the last year. So was not, like, big hole without matches for me,” said the 25-year-old.

“So, yeah, but anyway, I was a little bit sick. So I was not really — I didn’t know how I’m going to play, how I’m going to feel. So just happy I got this win. Won quite easy. We never played. So I think good start.”

The Czech faces Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi, the 2012 Brisbane champion,  in the quarter-finals.

Once ranked as high as No. 15 in the world, Kanepi, now No. 99, is on the comeback trail after missing nearly two years of action due to suffering from Epstein-Barr virus and plantar fasciitis in both feet.

The 32-year-old reached the quarter-finals of the US Open last fall, as a qualifier, and she booked her last-eight spot in Brisbane with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko on Wednesday.

“I think she won the tournament because I saw her on the — where I walk to the locker room. So she must like this conditions also,” Pliskova said of Kanepi.

“I think she’s playing quite similar and good serve, what I remember. So quite good shots. Pretty fast then. So I have to play aggressive and don’t let her play. So that’s now what I think, but maybe we will talk with my coach a little bit more about her.”

Meanwhile, third-seeded Elina Svitolina continued her impressive start to the season when she demolished Croatian Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-1 to set up a quarter-final against world No. 9 Johanna Konta.

Svitolina took just 64 minutes to see off Konjuh at the Pat Rafter Arena.

The 23-year-old started the week as world number six but would finish it as number four if she wins the tournament. Svitolina won five tournaments in 2017 and goes into the Australian Open as a serious contender for the year’s first Grand Slam.

“I’m playing well and I’m happy that I’m showing good tennis from the start of the year,” Svitolina said. “I try to always find my good tennis out there and, you know, play well. That’s the most important thing.”

Belarusian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich booked a quarter-final against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet when she beat Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

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