Kerber, Muguruza power into Tokyo semis

Former world No.1 Angelique Kerber outlasted second seed Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, while Garbine Muguruza trounced France's Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-4.

Angelique Kerber celebrates victory against Karolina Pliskova in Tokyo on Friday.   -  Getty Images


Former world No.1 Angelique Kerber won a war of attrition with second seed Karolina Pliskova on Friday to reach the semifinals of the Pan Pacific Open.

The German, seeded seventh and a former Tokyo finalist, came through 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 as she repelled some brutal hitting from her Czech opponent in a contest of real quality.

Pliskova, who herself briefly held the women's top ranking over the summer, produced moments of brilliance at the net but ultimately crumbled under relentless pressure from Kerber.

One of her eight double-faults gifted Kerber the first-set tie-break 7-5 before Pliskova unravelled again at the business end of the second set.

Kerber turned the screw in the 12th game, forcing Pliskova to save four match points before delivering the coup de grace with a vicious, dipping backhand that landed on the Czech's shoelaces, giving her no chance.

The 29-year-old Kerber, who has slipped back to 14th in the world since winning last year's Australian and US Open titles, faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the last four.

The Russian advanced by overcoming another Czech, Barbora Strycova, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

Top seed Garbine Muguruza, playing in her first tournament since reaching the top of the women's world rankings, faces France's Caroline Garcia in the third quarter-final.

Merciless Muguruza powers into Tokyo semis

Newly crowned world number one Garbine Muguruza trounced France's Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-4 on Friday to reach the semifinals of the Pan Pacific Open.

Spaniard Muguruza, playing her first tournament since reaching the top of the women's world rankings, never looked threatened in a one-sided quarterfinal. The Wimbledon champion stormed to a 5-1 lead before ripping a half-court forehand into the corner to secure the first set.

Muguruza pounced on a short second serve with a murderous backhand to break early in the second and the top seed dealt calmly with fleeting resistance from Garcia. The ninth seed gave herself a lifeline to level the set at 3-3 but was quickly put in her place when Muguruza beat her with a ferocious backhand pass to restore normal service.

A crunching serve down the middle put Garcia out of her misery after 81 minutes as Muguruza advanced to face title holder Caroline Wozniacki.

"I felt my game was there and my intensity," Muguruza told reporters. "I guess I'm always the favourite now," added the Spaniard, referring to the number one ranking.

"I'm dealing with a new situation and I don't think it's right to put pressure on myself. But to achieve a dream I've had since I was a child gives me a lot of confidence and a boost of motivation."

Two-time winner Wozniacki progressed after Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova retired with a thigh injury while trailing 3-6, 7-6, 3-1.

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