Quarterfinal Friday Pits Tournament Favorites Vs. Surprise Stories
By: Nick McCarvel
No. 5 seed Julia Goerges represents one type of quarterfinalist Friday at the Volvo Car Open: The expected.
Four of the top eight seeds have advance to the business end of the tournament, with Cinderella stories – the unexpected – representing the second four players, a group that features the likes of a former French Open semifinalist in Kiki Bertens.
Defending champion Daria Kasatkina – the No. 3 seed – and 2015 Charleston finalist Madison Keys headline Friday’s play, which also includes Goerges and No. 8 seed Anastasija Sevastova.
Joining Bertens as those who have surprised this week are world No. 101 Bernarda Pera, an American who is playing in her first-ever WTA quarterfinal, Kristyna Pliskova, the hard-hitting Czech left-hander who upset No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova earlier this week and No. 14 seed Alize Cornet, who upset French compatriot and top seed Caroline Garcia Thursday night.
The Volvo Car Open always brings a mix of the expected and unexpected. Last year it was Kasatkina – then just 19 – who stunned her way to the title. This week she has felt the pressure as defending champ, winning a tough opener before settling into her tennis.
Her next ask is perhaps the hardest of any for a spot in Saturday’s semifinals: Goerges. At 29, the German is playing the best tennis of her career having spent time inside the world’s top 10 earlier this year. She said her happiness on and off the court is contributing to her stronger play.
Thursday she was in devastatingly good form, hitting eight aces and winning 71 percent of points behind her first serve over a red-hot foe in Naomi Osaka, the Indian Wells champ.
Goerges leads her head-to-head with Kasatkina 3-2, including two in a row in the past 18 months. Kasatkina, however, has won eight matches in a row in Charleston, dating back to last year’s first round.
Kasatkina and Goerges open the day’s play inside Volvo Car Stadium at 11am, followed by the all-American battle of Keys vs. Pera.
Pera was little known before this year. She was a lucky loser at the Australian Open before making the third round, upsetting Johanna Konta en route. In just her sixth WTA-level event, she is into a quarterfinal here.
Keys, the 23-year-old 2017 US Open finalist, doesn’t know much about Pera, who was born in Croatia and played under that nation’s flag early in her career.
“I don’t know a ton,” Keys told reporters. “I’ve seen her a little bit this year because she’s been winning some matches. [I only know] she’s a lefty and goes for her shots.”
Kristyna Pliskova, twin sister to top 10 stalwart Karolina, is also a lefty who goes for her shots, and Friday will look to continue what has been a dream run this week against Sevastova, a crafty Latvian who plays all-court tennis.
Fresh off her upset over Garcia, Cornet gets a crack at the Dutch player Bertens, who is always dangerous – particularly on clay. They play the 7pm evening match.
Doubles also features on Friday, with a quarterfinal match set for both the day and night sessions.
Come Friday night, we’ll have our championship weekend all squared away. Which will storylines prevail and persist? We’ll just have to wait and see.