By Ros Satar
(June 19, 2015) BIRMINGHAM, England – Under a brisk chill in the air, top seed Simona Halep bowed out of the Aegon Classic, in one of the best deciding sets of the tournament so far. Back in Stuttgart she admitted to us members of the press that she never wanted to be in the position of never fighting for every point, and with Kristina Mladenovic’s occasional penchant for making heavy weather out of closing matches out, when Halep claimed the immediate break back for 5-5 in the third set, few around us would have pegged the Frenchwoman for the win.
The tie-break itself was a nervy affair but perhaps with Halep over-pressing, losing her last two serves sealed the deal for Mladenovic 2-6, 6-0, 7-6(4), who claimed her second Top 10 win over the year, having scuppered Genie Bouchard in the first round of the French Open.
“It’s big pressure when you have a big win as I could have against Genie this week. You just want it confirm and keep going that it wasn’t just a surprise, but that it can happen.
“Overall I’m just like working every day. It’s not about just big wins. I want to one day on these stages, their ranking, for example, and be the one to beat.”
She will face Karolina Pliskova, who earlier in the day seemingly breezed past Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2, but although the margin looked easy, she admitted that grass was making it look deceptive.
“I always liked grass, but Birmingham wasn’t my best place and best tournament for me till now. I’m happy that I went through here finally and that I won some matches here.
“I was always feeling good, but I didn’t have that easy draws for first round. Even here I almost loss in the first round, so I’m really happy to be the semis here, especially in Birmingham, and also to have some good result before Wimbledon on grass.”
Mladenovic leads their head to head 1-0 from last year in Moscow,
Meanwhile Angelique Kerber is now the highest seed standing, as she made short work of teenager Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 6-4.
She said: “I think it was a very close match. I mean, the score was not so close, but every single game was like advantage, deuce. She played very well today, but I knew this before the match because I saw the matches from her. And she beat also Andrea [Petkovic], so I knew it was be tough match. I was ready for that and very happy about my performance on grass right now.”
Rounding out the day was the menacingly in-form Sabine Lisicki, who dealt with 2013 champion Daniela Hantuchova with ease after a competitive first set. Lisicki simply dominated the tie-break and gave no quarter in the second 7-6(2), 6-2, and will face Fed Cup team mate Kerber next.
She said: “We actually practiced this week together. Yeah, I didn’t know that I have such a bad record against her, but I’m just happy to be back on the grass, back in the semifinal. I’ve played some good matches, and I think I can still improve. I’m just happy to be back in that position and have another chance to go to the final.”
The semi-finals start on Saturday, at 12 noon.
Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.