Ace-happy Pliskova offers threat to Barty

·2-min read

Karolina Pliskova has served a warning to Ash Barty by cracking down a personal best 21 aces en route to setting up a fascinating quarter-final with Australia's world No.1 in Stuttgart.

The big-hitting Czech battled through a draining contest on the indoor clay at the Porsche Grand Prix before finally getting the better of former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in a three-set marathon on Thursday.

Former US Open finalist Pliskova came back from a set down and fired down 10 aces in the last set alone before prevailing 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 6-3 to set up a seventh meeting with Barty.

"I like spending time on this court," smiled the Czech after having had to fend off the Ostapenko fireworks for nearly two-and-a-half hours.

Pliskova had even ended up hurling a racquet down in a fury at one point, pointing out wryly afterwards: "It always helps me when I break a racquet."

The 21 aces represented her joint-best in any WTA match but the match will surely have drained the world No.9 before she renews rivalry with Barty on Friday.

"She's on a good run and has won a few tournaments, but I have nothing to lose," shrugged Pliskova.

Barty leads 4-2 in their six meetings and can take heart from having won the last two back in 2019 in Miami and in the WTA Finals.

Thursday wasn't a competitive day off for the Queenslander, though, as Barty joined forces with Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady in the doubles to beat the Chinese pair of Yifan Xu and Shuai Zhang 6-4 6-3 and reach the semi-finals.

Another highlight in Stuttgart was Simona Halep returning from injury to start her clay-court season with a most impressive 6-1 6-3 win over Marketa Vondrousova that propelled her into the last-eight in less than an hour.

Halep was back for the first time since a shoulder injury forced her out of last month's Miami Open, which was won by Barty.

At the crowd-free tournament, two-time Stuttgart winner Angelique Kerber, who could normally be expected to be roared on by home fans, departed 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 at the hands of Elina Svitolina.

Fifth-seed Aryna Sabalenka defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-4 6-2 to set up a meeting with Anett Kontaveit, who had eliminated Sofia Kenin on Wednesday.