Ashleigh Barty is one win away from returning to the top of the WTA rankings after world number one Naomi Osaka retired in the Western & Southern Open quarter-finals.

Osaka only herself reclaimed top spot by reaching the last eight at the Rogers Cup, but defeat to Sofia Kenin at the same stage in Cincinnati would open the door for Barty.

And the Japanese star, having battled back after losing the first set, taking the second 6-1, was forced to retire at the WTA Premier event on Friday.

Osaka had required treatment to a knee injury and finally retired after being broken early in the third set.

Barty will now unseat Osaka if she advances to the final, having reached the last four with a stunning comeback victory over Maria Sakkari 5-7 6-2 6-0.

Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova's own hopes of reaching the summit – a possibility if Barty also fell by the wayside – ended as she crashed out to Svetlana Kuznetsova in another three-set contest.

 

BARTY FOCUSED ON TOURNAMENT SUCCESS

The ranking might be on the line for Barty, but she is happy to set that aside and focus on going as far as possible in Cincinnati.

"I'm just keeping my eye on the ball and, if I win matches, the ranking will take care of itself," she said after her win.

"We're excited to be in new territory here in Cincy."

Kuznetsova awaits the Australian and French Open champion.

 

OSAKA WORRIED AFTER BOWING OUT

It was not a good day for reigning US Open champion Osaka.

Osaka retired with a leg injury against Kenin, handing Barty the chance to return to the WTA summit.

It also means Osaka is under an injury cloud ahead of the US Open at Flushing Meadows, where she stunned Serena Williams last year.

"It sucks, especially since I didn't want to get injured this close to the Open," Osaka said. "And now I'm kind of worried a little bit.

"She was playing well. I had to really think about what I had to do during the match, so I'm not that mad at the result. The injured part sucks, but losing, it's not that big of a deal."

 

KUZNETSOVA WINS THRILLER AGAINST PLISKOVA

Two-time grand slam champion Kuznetsova outlasted third seed Pliskova 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 to reach the final four.

Kuznetsova was down a set with Pliskova serving for the match but the Russian rallied thanks to 30 winners and six aces in the gruelling two hour, 23-minute clash.

Meanwhile, Madison Keys vanquished seven-time major champion Venus Williams 6-2 6-3 to set up a semi-final with fellow American Kenin.

Madison Keys ended Simona Halep's chances of reaching another Western & Southern Open final, while Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty battled through.

A three-time runner-up in Cincinnati, Halep was edged by Keys at the WTA Premier event on Thursday.

The Romanian became the first top-four seed to fall, with Barty, Osaka and Karolina Pliskova booking their spots in the quarter-finals.

 

KEYS EDGES HALEP IN THRILLER

Keys, the American 16th seed, served 10 aces on her way to a 6-1 3-6 7-5 victory over fourth seed Halep in the third round.

Halep came from 3-0 down in the final set and saved a match point in the 10th game, but Keys broke again to claim her win.

Having lost finals in Cincinnati in 2015, 2017 and 2018, Halep fell short of reaching another decider.

Keys will face Venus Williams after the American veteran beat Donna Vekic 2-6 6-3 6-3.

 

BARTY, OSAKA MOVE THROUGH

Barty was pushed before getting past Anett Kontaveit 4-6 7-5 7-5 in two hours, 10 minutes.

The Australian found herself 5-3 down in the final set before winning four straight games to advance.

Barty will meet Maria Sakkari, who upset Belarusian ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4.

Osaka was also forced to three sets by Hsieh Su-wei before claiming a 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-2 victory.

Awaiting the Japanese star in the last eight is Sofia Kenin, who beat Elina Svitolina for the second time in as many tournaments with a 6-3 7-6 (7-3) victory.

 

PLISKOVA, KUZNETSOVA PROGRESS

Pliskova, the 2016 champion, is yet to drop a set and was too good for qualifier Rebecca Peterson 7-5 6-4.

The Czech will meet Svetlana Kuznetsova after the 34-year-old wildcard crushed Sloane Stephens 6-1 6-2.

Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep battled into the last 16 at the Western & Southern Open, while Ashleigh Barty crushed Maria Sharapova.

Osaka is back at world number one and the Japanese star moved through her second-round match at the WTA Premier event in Cincinnati on Wednesday.

Like Osaka, Halep – a three-time runner-up – was tested, while Barty needed less than 90 minutes to thrash Sharapova.

 

OSAKA, HALEP PUSHED TO THREE

Osaka needed more than two hours to overcome Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-2 in the second round.

She had won her previous three meetings with the Belarusian in straight sets, but was pushed at the hard-court tournament.

Osaka will next face Hsieh Su-wei, who got past qualifier Jennifer Brady 7-6 (11-9) 6-3.

Halep, a finalist at the event in 2015, 2017 and 2018, came from a set and a break down to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 3-6 7-5 6-4.

The Romanian will meet Madison Keys, who eased past Daria Kasatkina 6-4 6-1.

 

BARTY BRUSHES PAST SHARAPOVA

A surprise last-32 loser at the Rogers Cup, Barty dominated Sharapova in a 6-4 6-1 victory.

The Australian broke serve four times during her 40th win of the season while continuing Sharapova's rough 2019.

Sharapova, a five-time grand slam champion, holds just an 8-6 win-loss record in 2019.

Barty will meet Anett Kontaveit, who was too good for Polish teenager Iga Swiatek 6-4 7-6 (7-2).

 

PLISKOVA, SVITOLINA THROUGH ON GOOD DAY FOR SEEDS

Champion in 2016, Karolina Pliskova was untroubled by Wang Yafan, winning 6-1 6-3.

Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka, the ninth seed, cruised past Zheng Saisai 6-4 6-3.

Elina Svitolina will face Sofia Kenin after their 6-4 6-1 wins over Elise Mertens and Zarina Diyas respectively, while Sloane Stephens and Donna Vekic – who beat Victoria Azarenka – progressed along with Svetlana Kuznetsova and Rebecca Peterson.

Serena Williams is the last seed standing at the Rogers Cup as defending champion Simona Halep made a quarter-final exit on Friday.

Williams was in impressive form as she powered past Naomi Osaka in their first meeting since last year's controversial US Open final.

The American great is the only seed into the last four, with Halep's title defence coming to an end at the WTA Premier tournament.

 

WILLIAMS WONDERFUL AGAINST OSAKA

Williams has apologised for her meltdown at Flushing Meadows last year and the 23-time grand slam champion produced a brilliant display against Osaka.

Osaka had won her previous two matches against Williams in straight sets, but the 37-year-old secured a 6-3 6-4 victory over the Japanese star on Friday.

Williams may have been expecting to face Halep in a rematch of their Wimbledon final, but the Romanian bowed out against Marie Bouzkova.

The Czech qualifier continued her run, winning the first set 6-4 when Halep retired injured.

PLISKOVA, SVITOLINA STUNNED

Karolina Pliskova also exited in the quarter-finals, suffering a 6-0 2-6 6-4 loss to Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

That result meant Osaka, who later lost to Williams, will replace Ashleigh Barty atop the world rankings.

Andreescu will face Sofia Kenin after the American upset Ukrainian sixth seed Elina Svitolina 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.

At 37, Williams is by far the oldest player left in the draw, with the others – Bouzkova (21), Andreescu (19) and Kenin (20) all under 22.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will go head-to-head for the first time since the controversial 2018 US Open decider after the pair reached the Rogers Cup quarter-finals.

Osaka prevailed against childhood hero Williams last year at Flushing Meadows, where the 23-time grand slam champion's epic meltdown contributed to her defeat.

Williams was issued a code violation for what umpire Carlos Ramos deemed to be coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou, irritating the former world number one who insisted she was not a cheat.

A point penalty for racquet abuse led to her branding Ramos a "liar" and a "thief" and she was then docked a game, after which she called for the match referee and alleged she was being treated differently to male players.

Osaka's maiden major was overshadowed by Williams' behaviour. Now, the two players are set for a rematch in Toronto.

 

SERENA SURVIVES ALEXANDROVA TEST

The 37-year-old American star was pushed by Ekaterina Alexandrova in a 7-5 6-4 victory on Thursday.

Williams trailed the Russian qualifier 3-0 in the first and 3-1 in the second, however, the eighth seed produced when it mattered most to advance at the WTA Premier event.

A three-time champion, Williams – playing for the first time since Wimbledon – said: "I definitely feel like it takes a while to get back into the rhythm, because we've had a long season of just clay and then grass, and now we're on hard courts. So it definitely feels different, especially for me now. Usually I don't feel that huge of a difference, but for whatever reason I do this year."

 

OSAKA ON TRACK TO RECLAIM TOP RANKING

Australian Open champion and second seed Osaka overcame teenager Iga Swiatek 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 in the last 16.

Osaka rallied from a break and two set points down to eventually prevail against the Polish 18-year-old.

The Japanese star is on track to return to the WTA's summit on Monday ahead of Karolina Pliskova, who must beat Bianca Andreescu to have any chance of claiming the top ranking.

Pliskova accounted for Anett Kontaveit 6-3 7-5, while Andreescu outlasted Kiki Bertens 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 6-4.

 

HALEP'S TITLE DEFENCE ALIVE

Defending champion Simona Halep eased past Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 6-1 in just 67 minutes.

Halep – the fourth seed – was a class above as she reached the Rogers Cup quarters for the fifth time.

Next up for Halep is qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who stunned former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-2.

Sixth seed Elina Svitolina and Sofia Kenin also moved through to the last eight.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka eased into the last 16 at the Rogers Cup, while Simona Halep survived a scare on Wednesday.

Williams, a three-time champion at the WTA Premier event, was in good form in her first appearance since Wimbledon, beating Elise Mertens in the second round.

Osaka moved a step closer to reclaiming the number one ranking, while Halep edged through.

 

SUPER SERENA, OSAKA CLOSE TO TOP

Williams, the eighth seed, came from a break down in each set to get past Mertens 6-3 6-3.

The American 23-time grand slam champion was in decent form against Mertens, who troubled Williams at different times.

Meanwhile, Ashleigh Barty will lose the top ranking after Osaka booked her spot in the third round.

Osaka took the first set over Tatjana Maria 6-2 before the German qualifier retired.

It means the Japanese star or Karolina Pliskova will replace Barty, who lost on Tuesday, atop the world rankings.

HALEP SURVIVES SCARE

Halep, the defending champion, moved through but only just, edging Jennifer Brady.

The Romanian fourth seed and Wimbledon champion overcame the qualifier 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-5) after almost two and a half hours.

It was a good day for the seeds – Pliskova and Elina Svitolina advancing with the likes of Belinda Bencic and Anett Kontaveit.

Pliskova's bid to return to the top of the rankings is alive after a 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 victory over qualifier Alison Riske.

Svitolina, meanwhile, battled past Katerina Siniakova 6-3 3-6 6-3.

 

WOE FOR WOZNIACKI

The only seed to depart was Wozniacki, who fell to 18-year-old qualifier Iga Swiatek 1-6 6-3 6-4.

Wozniacki, the 2010 champion and 2017 runner-up, led 3-0 in the final set before losing six of the final seven games to the Polish teenager.

World number one Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova crashed out as the women's quarter-final draw opened up at Wimbledon.

Barty went down 3-6 6-2 6-3 in a compelling contest against Alison Riske on No. 2 Court, while Czech Republic's third seed Pliskova went down to compatriot Karolina Muchova 4-6 7-5 13-11 in an epic encounter.

Riske will face Serena Williams – a 6-2 6-2 winner over Carla Suarez Navarro - in an all-American quarter but 15-year-old sensation Cori Gauff had her superb run at SW19 ended by Simona Halep in straight sets.

Halep is now the highest seed left in the draw after Britain's Johanna Konta kept home interest alive with a thrilling 4-6 6-2 6-4 win over world number six Petra Kvitova.
 

BARTY'S HOT STREAK COMES TO AN END

French Open champion Barty had not lost for two months heading into her fourth-round match but had no complaints as Riske turned in a stirring display.

"Overall I didn't play a poor match. When I needed to, when the big moments were there, Alison played better," she said. "Tough one to swallow but I lost to a better player."

Riske is relishing her reward of a showdown with Williams, who she has partnered in Fed Cup doubles.

"I think it's super exciting. I played doubles with Serena, but never played against her. It will be an interesting match," she said.

"I'm ready for a war. She's the greatest athlete I think that's ever been on the women's side. It's going to be a huge challenge."

GAUFF EXIT TOUGH TO STOMACH

Already a favourite at the All England Club, Gauff was unable to overturn the odds once more against the former world number one Halep.

The youngster seemed to be hindered by illness and called for the doctor in the second set.

"I wasn't feeling 100 per cent. I still tried my best. Simona played really well," she said after losing 6-3 6-3.

"I learned a lot. I learned how to play in front of a big crowd. I learned what it was like to be under pressure. I'm really thankful for this experience."
 

KONTA KEEPS HOME FIRES BURNING

Konta will meet veteran Barbora Strycova – a winner in three against Belgium's Elise Mertens - after bringing Centre Court to its feet at the end of a gruelling battle.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova did not go down without a fight, saving two match points and breaking Konta to recover from 5-1 down to make it 5-4 in the decider, but the elated 19th seed finished the job.

"Petra started playing incredibly freely and hitting through the ball. The balls were coming at 100 miles-an-hour to me," Konta, who assuaged fears over the ankle treatment she received during the match, told BBC.

"I'm tremendously grateful to be here. The way I'm competing, I'm really happy with that."

SVITOLINA LANDING BLOWS ON OTHER SIDE OF THE DRAW

China's world number 50 Shuai Zhang is up next for Halep after beating teenager Dayana Yastremska 6-4 1-6 6-2 to reach a first quarter-final since the 2016 Australian Open.

Yastremska's fellow Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, the number eight seed, brushed aside Petra Martic in straight sets to set up a meeting with surprise package Muchova.

A keen boxing fan, Svitolina will be optimistic of sealing semi-final berth and potentially landing a knockout blow on one of the favourites.

"I love watching it. In Ukraine there is great fighters," she said, while pursuing a triumph that could place her alongside the Klitschko brothers and Vasyl Lomachenko in her nation's affections.

"I'm a big fan of [Anthony Joshua]. Unfortunately, [his] last fight wasn't great."

Simona Halep felt she turned in her best performance of the season as she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, setting up a clash with Cori Gauff.

Romania's former world number one blew away Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-1 on Centre Court to advance on Friday.

"I'm very satisfied. I think was my best match this year," Halep said. "I played really well. I felt actually very confident.

"I've been aggressive all the match, even if I was 3-1 down first set.

"I expected a tough one. I expected she's going to play well and she's going to hit strong, so I knew that. I was ready for the match. I'm really happy that I could win against a player such as Vika because she's a great one."

Gauff, the 15-year-old American breakout star of the tournament, is up next, although she trailed Polona Hercog by a set and a break when Halep faced the media.

Halep had acknowledged she knew little about Gauff and instead expressed confidence she could beat Hercog, who she had assumed would progress.

Gauff will be facing a seeded player for the first time at Wimbledon but was optimistic it would not have an impact. "I don't think because she's seeded will change me at all," she said, after a 3-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 victory over Hercog.

 

WOZNIACKI'S TECH WOE

Caroline Wozniacki has played three grand slam finals, winning one, but she has repeatedly struggled to make a breakthrough at Wimbledon, crashing out in the fourth round on six occasions.

The Dane did not even make it to that stage this year and she bemoaned perceived errors from Hawk-Eye in a 6-4 6-2 defeat to Zheng Shuai, believing the technology was making incorrect calls.

"I thought there was a few ones that I saw way differently. But it is what it is. You can't really change a Hawk-Eye call," she said. "Maybe it was right. I just saw it differently."

The umpires appeared to agree with Wozniacki, but she added: "It's the technology. It's supposed to help the umpires and the players. You can't really do anything."

 

PLISKOVA: I ONLY CARE ABOUT MYSELF

Karolina Pliskova was one of two Czech players going through in the women's singles on Friday, with 22-year-old Karolina Muchova also winning to set up a clash with the third seed.

Marketa Vondrousova reached the French Open final, too, but Pliskova bluntly insisted she has taken no interest in improving her compatriots.

"That's not my goal. I only care about myself," she said. "I know it's ugly. It's this way in tennis. I don't really look around.

"For sure, for Czech tennis, for Fed Cup, it's great that there are so many good players, young players. There are some options. For me, it's an opponent. I don't care which country she is."

 

YASTREMSKA BACKING YOUNGSTERS

If Halep wrote off Gauff too early and Pliskova does not give much thought for the Czech up-and-comers, 19-year-old Dayana Yastremska is at least optimistic about the future of the WTA Tour.

"I think there has to be the day when the new generation have to beat the pros, so it's nice that now young players are getting to the top," she said.

"It's good that I'm in the fourth round, but I hope it's not the end. I can see myself going further, but I will try not to think about it. I will play match by match, point by point, and we will see where I get."

She beat Viktorija Golubic, while compatriot Elina Svitolina downed Maria Sakkari. Petra Martic is also through.

Serena Williams' mixed doubles match alongside Andy Murray was postponed until Saturday, though, due to the length of Gauff's match.

Cori Gauff followed up her victory over Venus Williams by easing past Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets to book her place in the third round at Wimbledon.

Teenage sensation Gauff showed her win against five-time Wimbledon champion Williams was no fluke with a dominant 6-3 6-3 triumph over Rybarikova on No.1 Court.

Earlier on Wednesday, Simona Halep progressed from an all-Romanian tie against Mihaela Buzarnescu, while third seed Karolina Pliskova continued her hunt for a first grand slam prize with a convincing 6-0 6-4 win over Monica Puig.

Caroline Wozniacki was made to work hard by debutant Wimbledon Veronika Kudermetova, eventually prevailing 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 victory, with Anett Kontaveit dispensing of Heather Watson.

It was not all plain sailing for the favourites, though, as Anastasija Sevastova and Madison Keys – 12th and 17th seeds respectively – crashed out.

Margarita Gasparyan, meanwhile, was left in tears as – after she suffered an awkward landing – she had to retire with the score at 5-7 6-5, handing eighth seed Elina Svitolina a reprieve.

HISTORY MAKING GAUFF ROLLS ON

Gauff stunned Williams in the first round, and clearly took plenty of confidence into Wednesday's clash with Rybarikova, making light work of her opponent to set up a third-round tie with Polona Hercog, who beat Keys 6-2 6-4.

"I think I played well, especially on the pressure points. She was serving amazing so it was hard to return sometimes," 15-year-old Gauff told BBC Sport.

"There's so much going on. I'm still shocked that I'm even here. I think I can beat anyone who's across the court. If I don't think I can win the match then I won't even step on the court."

 

HALEP HOLDS FIRM

Former world one Halep dominated early but lost her form in the second set to hand compatriot Buzarnescu a lifeline.

Halep rallied to break twice and win the third set, though, and she will now face two-time semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka, who overcame Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2 6-0.

"I think I'm playing okay. It's always tough on grass. But it was a tougher match than first one, so it was good that I could win it," Halep told a news conference. "I felt confident on court. I felt strong mentally."

 

WOZNIACKI EGES IT AS PLISKOVA CRUISES

Like Halep, Wozniacki was also run close in her contest with Kudermetova, who stunned the world number 19 when they met at the French Open in May.

Kudermetova forced a tie-break in the first set, but Wozniacki's experience eventually told when she reeled off the last two points in a row before closing out the win in style.

Pliskova, meanwhile, had no such issues against Puig, hitting nine aces and 23 total winners in her one-hour victory.

Cori Gauff was in dreamland after the 15-year-old sent shockwaves around Wimbledon by beating Venus Williams, while an emotional Naomi Osaka crashed out on day one.

Gauff became the youngest player to qualify for the grass-court grand slam in the Open Era last week and stunned her idol Williams 6-4 6-4 in her first main-draw match at a major on Monday.

Osaka was unable to join American prospect Gauff in round two, Yulia Putintseva beating the second seed 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 at the All England Club.

Magdalena Rybarikova will be teenager Gauff's next opponent after the Slovakian toppled 10th seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-4.

Simona Halep was troubled by her knee and Achilles, but the former world number one battled past Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 7-5, while third seed Karolina Pliskova and eighth seed Elina Svitolina defeated Zhu Lin and Daria Gavrilova respectively.

Caroline Garcia, Marketa Vondrousova and Daria Kasatkina were the other seeds to fall on the opening day at SW19.

 

CLASSY GAUFF EXPRESSES VENUS GRATITUDE

Gauff produced an astonishing performance on the renovated No.1 Court and the world number 313 was reduced to tears after dumping out 39-year-old Williams.

Williams had won Wimbledon twice by the time Gauff was born, but it was the youngster who came out on top in the battle of the generations after making only eight unforced errors.

"This is the first time I ever cried after winning a match," Gauff told BBC Sport. "I never thought this would happen. I don't know how to explain it. I'm literally living my dream. Not many people get to say that.

"When we shook hands she told me congratulations and to keep going and good luck. I said, 'Thank you for everything you've done.' I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her."

 

ALL TOO MUCH FOR OSAKA 

Osaka cut her press conference short after losing to an inspired Putintseva as the two-time major champion was "about to cry."

The Kazakh maintained her perfect record against the US Open and Australian Open champion with an inspired display, Osaka paying the price for 38 unforced errors.

The Japanese struggled on grass once again in a tournament where she has not been beyond the third round, losing to Putintseva for the third time last than two weeks after she got the better of her in Birmingham.

 

HALEP 'LUCKY' TO AVOID SERIOUS INJURY

Seventh seed Halep fell awkwardly during her encounter with Sasnovich on the same court where Gauff later stunned Williams.

The 2018 French Open champion needed treatment after overextending when she fell to the turf but was able to solider on with her left ankle strapped.

Romanian Halep said: "It's okay in this moment. But I need to do the treatment. I feel a little bit. I think it's a little bit stretched, the muscle behind the knee, and also the Achilles. Hopefully is nothing dangerous and I can recover until the next match [against compatriot Mihaela Buzarnescu]."

Karolina Pliskova does not think any rivals will be concerned over her imperious form in Eastbourne when she goes in search of a first grand slam title at Wimbledon.

The world number three heads to the All England Club as joint favourite with Ashleigh Barty after being crowned Nature Valley International champion with a 6-1 6-4 defeat of Angelique Kerber.

Pliskova lost only seven points on serve in the second set against the reigning Wimbledon champion on Saturday and did not drop a set all week, making a big statement ahead of the grass-court major.

The Czech has won three titles this year - the same tally as world number one Barty - but does not believe her latest triumph will count for anything in SW19 over the next fortnight.

"Of course, it's going to be new start, new beginning. Nobody's gonna really think about this [at Wimbledon]. Maybe me," Pliskova said with a laugh.

"I just want to totally forget about what was here. Just take maybe only the positives but not to be thinking that everything is going to go that easy as this week, because I never had a week like this, that I didn't lose that many games. I felt like everything went quite smooth.

"Maybe the second set today was the toughest, but I felt everything just went the way it should, which for sure is not going to be like this in Wimbledon."

Kerber saluted Pliskova after the three-time major champion was outplayed in the final.

"I think she played a perfect match. She really played the whole week very well. For me, I was trying to find my game, but it just started in the second set because she really played well. She served good. She didn't give me the chance to find my rhythm," Kerber said.

"At the end I was still trying, especially at the end of the match, to break her back and stay in the match. But, she played well. The chance that I had, I couldn't take it.

"I will try to take the positive things from the whole week, from the last two weeks before going to Wimbledon now. I take the positive, how many good matches I had here. Of course today it was not the result that I wished, but I played against a good opponent."

Karolina Pliskova laid down a huge marker ahead of Wimbledon with a dominant 6-1 6-4 victory over Angelique Kerber in Saturday's Nature Valley International final.

The world number three, who did not drop a set all week, was flawless against the defending Wimbledon champion en route to becoming a two-time winner in Eastbourne.

It was Pliskova's third final at this event in the past four seasons and she was simply a class above Kerber, who had herself been in fine form at the grass-court event.

The 27-year-old, now boasting three titles in 2019, cuts the gap in her head-to-head with Kerber to 7-5 and will head into her Wimbledon opener against Zhu Lin brimming with confidence.

Asked if her triumph boosts her chances at the third slam of the year, Pliskova told the post-match presentation: "Well, I won the title here one year then lost in [the] second round [at Wimbledon], so I don't know what will happen. 

"I play Monday, it's not ideal, but I'll enjoy this and try to do my best.

"All week I didn't drop a set, not all matches were as easy as the score suggests. Angie played a great week and good luck to her for Wimbledon."

Pliskova's power at the baseline and deft touches at the net saw her roar into a 4-0 double-break lead.

Kerber finally got on the board to break back but surrendered serve for a third time after Pliskova won a thrilling point with a fine winner at the net.

The Czech duly served out the opener and there was no let up at the start of the second as Pliskova broke at the first time of asking when Kerber found the left tramline.

Kerber showed some fine resolve to save break points in game seven, but the nerveless Pliskova comfortably saw out her final service games to secure a huge win.

Despite the defeat, Kerber is feeling in good shape ahead of the defence of her Wimbledon title.

"[There's going to be] a lot of emotion," she said. "Of course, going back as defending champion it will be a special moment playing on Centre Court again, a lot of memories from last year. 

"I'm playing good, hopefully I can continue my play from last year."

Karolina Pliskova reached her third final at the Nature Valley International with an emphatic win over Kiki Bertens, as Angelique Kerber progressed with a walkover.

A finalist in 2016 and champion in 2017, Pliskova has found Eastbourne to be a happy hunting ground again and needed just under an hour to rout Bertens.

She prevailed 6-1 6-2 in a match in which she did not face a single break point, sending an ominous warning to Kerber, the reigning Wimbledon champion, who will be fresh after being given an unexpected day off.

Her opponent Ons Jabeur was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury suffered in her quarter-final win over Alize Cornet.

Jabeur posted on Twitter: "Sorry but I had to pull out of Eastbourne semi-finals due to ankle injury of yesterday's match against Alize. 

"I hope to be ready for Wimbledon's 1st round. Thank you Eastbourne for such a great tournament."

"There has to be something in the air here, I'm so pleased with how I handled all the matches," Pliskova said after her match. 

"The score didn't show sometimes the tennis we played. I need to always play good tennis to beat Kiki, I lost to her at Wimbledon last year so I knew it was going to be tough."

On Kerber she added: "I think she's always great on grass, obviously last year she won Wimbledon so it's always super tough."

Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki was eliminated from the Nature Valley International in dramatic fashion as Aryna Sabalenka gained revenge in a rematch of the 2018 final.

Sabalenka saved a match point and came roaring back from 5-2 down in the third set to win a thrilling last-16 contest 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) at Eastbourne.

Next up for the Belarusian is a meeting with Kiki Bertens, who she has not beaten in three previous meetings. Bertens was a 6-3 6-3 winner over Anna-Lena Friedsam.

"Something unbelievable happened today and I'm so happy that I won this match," said an ecstatic Sabalenka in an on-court interview. "It's a really important win for me."

In the week before Wimbledon, 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko retired from her match with Ekaterina Alexandrova due to a left hip injury, while trailing 6-3 2-1.

Alexandrova now faces the daunting challenge of toppling second seed Karolina Pliskova, who demolished Elise Mertens 6-1 6-2. 

The pick of the quarter-final ties will be a meeting between two former world number ones in Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber. The Romanian came through a three-setter with Polona Hercog while Kerber beat Rebecca Peterson 7-6 (7-4) 6-0.

Home hope Johanna Konta suffered a surprising 6-3 6-2 loss at the hands of Ons Jabeur, who will take on Alize Cornet - a straight-sets winner over Zhang Shuai - in the last eight.

Reigning champion Caroline Wozniacki opened the defence of her title at the Nature Valley International with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Kirsten Flipkens.

Playing in her first match on grass this season, Dane Wozniacki - who also triumphed at the tournament in 2009 - unsurprisingly looked right at home at Eastbourne.

The 11th seed led 3-0 in the first set and then raced 4-0 up in the second and while Flipkens hit back on each occasion, the Belgian was eventually ousted after one hour and 22 minutes on court.

"I love playing here, it brings back great memories for me," Wozniacki told the WTA Tour's official website. "I was here for the first time when I was 14, so basically half of my life. It's pretty amazing."

Second seed Karolina Pliskova also won in straight sets on Monday, the 2017 champion overcoming Margarita Gasparyan 6-3 6-3.

Marketa Vondrousova, the 13th seed, progressed at the expense of Zheng Saisai, though the 6-2 6-3 score did not do justice to how hard the Czech had to work for the win.

Jelena Ostapenko set up a second-round meeting with seventh seed Sloane Stephens by beating Mihaela Buzarnescu at the tournament for a second straight year.

The 2017 French Open champion, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon 12 months ago, rallied from a break down in both sets against her Romanian opponent, sealing a 91-minute victory by taking the final four games in a row.

There were also wins for Daria Gavrilova, Hsieh Su-wei, Tamara Zidansek, Yulia Putintseva and Ons Jabeur before the rain arrived, cutting short play for the day.

Meanwhile, after rising to the top of the world rankings with victory at the Birmingham Classic on Sunday, Ashleigh Barty withdrew from her final tournament before Wimbledon due to an arm injury.

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