Former champs Lisicki, Hantuchova set up Birmingham quarter

Jun 18, 2015, 11:26 AM

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — A day after hitting a WTA Tour-record 27 aces, Sabine Lisicki produced another powerful performance which carried her into the Aegon Classic quarterfinals on Thursday and a chance to regain the title.

The U.S.-based German delivered a battery of heavy groundstrokes and more unstoppable serves in beating 2009 champion Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (7), 6-4.

Lisicki has always wanted to make up for her intense disappointment in losing the 2013 Wimbledon final for which she was the favorite, and her form suggests she may be capable of it.

Although she lost a 4-2 first-set lead and did not convert three set points in the 12th game, she boldly saved three set points in the tiebreaker before closing it out, and was soon a break of serve up in the second.

Lisicki, who also holds the record for the fastest serve on tour at 131 mph (211 kph), delivered eight more aces but was made to work right to the end by a resilient opponent with a natural grass-court game.

“It’s great preparation (for Wimbledon) to win tight matches like this, and it gives me a lot of confidence,” Lisicki said. “It’s a very special part of the year for me, if not the highlight of the season, so it gets everything out of me.”

She has a repeat of the final she won here four years ago against Daniela Hantuchova, who produced a focused and disciplined performance to dispose of surprise survivor Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal 6-4, 7-5.

De Brito ousted defending champion Ana Ivanovic but found Hantuchova, the 2013 champ, a little too consistent.

Eighth-seeded Lisicki was joined by three other seeds in the last eight: No. 1 Simona Halep, No. 3 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, and No. 6 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

Pliskova, won twice on the day – 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 against Johanna Konta, the British wild card, and 6-2, 6-2 against Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan – and plays the impressive Suarez Navarro next.

Suarez Navarro has more wins on the tour – 35 – than anyone else this year, and the quality of her 6-3, 6-4 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova, twice a former Grand Slam champ, made it hard to believe she was still customizing to grass.

Halep trampled over Czech Klara Koukalova 6-1, 6-3, and earned a meeting with Kristina Mladenovic, the Frenchwoman with the big serve who has beaten two seeds, including last year’s runner-up, Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic, 7-6 (4), 6-2.

“Playing Mladenovic won’t be easy, but I am starting to feel the grass pretty good,” Halep said. “So I have confidence in my game now.”

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Former champs Lisicki, Hantuchova set up Birmingham quarter