Inspired Pliskova ousts Halep

GOING STRONG: Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova serves during her quarterfinal game against Romania’s Simona Halep on Thursday. REUTERS

Defending champion Simona Halep lost her first match at the Madrid Open in three years on Thursday as Karolina Pliskova produced an inspired performance to reach the semifinals.

Halep had won the title here both in 2016 and 2017 but the world number one struggled to impose her baseline game against the power of Pliskova, who won 6-4, 6-3.

Pliskova will now face either two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or Russian up-and-comer Daria Kasatkina for a place in Saturday's final.

Halep will still be among the favourites later this month at the French Open, where she has twice finished runner-up, but 26 unforced errors marked the Romanian's error-strewn display.

That should take nothing away from Pliskova, whose demon serve and blistering power can take the racket from the hand of any opponent.

After beating Jelena Ostapenko, Anett Kontaveit and Coco Vandeweghe on her way to winning the title in Stuttgart a fortnight ago, Pliskova, the sixth seed, is now the highest-ranked player left in the draw.

Edmund in quarters

Britain's Kyle Edmund followed up his surprise win over Novak Djokovic by beating Belgium's David Goffin on Thursday to march into the quarterfinals.

Edmund had lost in five sets to Goffin when they last met, also on clay, in the 2015 Davis Cup but the 23-year-old's rise has been sharp since then and this was a completely different contest.

The Briton won it 6-3, 6-3, breaking Goffin's serve twice in the first set and once in the second, to move into the last eight of an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time in his career.

Goffin is no slouch on clay. He reached the French Open quarterfinals last year and made the semis in Barcelona earlier this month. He is also only the second top-10 player Edmund has beaten, coming four months after the Yorkshireman ousted world number three Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open. Djokovic, recently back from injury, is currently under-ranked at 12th.

Edmund will face a Canadian, either Denis Shapovalov or Milos Raonic, for a place in the semifinals, with Alexander Zverev a possible foe in the last four. Rafael Nadal lurks in the other half of the draw.

Goffin is one of the most consistent baseliners in the game but he simply was unable to cope with Edmund's heavier weight of shot.

After breaking twice to seal the first set, Edmund spurned one match point at 5-2 on Goffin's serve and then delivered a double fault a game later to set nerves jangling.

But, just as he had done against Djokovic the day before, Edmund did not waver, serving out when a Goffin forehand hit the net to confirm victory in a brief hour and 12 minutes.

On Wednesday, Nadal began defence of his title in comfortable fashion as he coasted to a 6-3, 6-1 win over France's Gael Monfils.

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