Pliskova advances in Toronto, could regain top ranking

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TORONTO — Third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic advanced to the Rogers Cup quarterfinals Thursday, beating Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 7-5.

In position to reclaim the top spot in the world ranking this week, Pliskova set up a match against Bianca Andreescu of Canada. Andreescu beat fifth-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-4.

Pliskova finished off Kontaveit in two sets after taking three against American Alison Riske on Wednesday.

“For sure better than it was maybe yesterday,” Pliskova said. “So I guess it’s going to get better every day with what I play. And I always was, I am, improving with matches.”

The 19-year-old Andreescu improved to 5-0 against top-10 opponents this year.

Serena Williams faced Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in a night match, with the winner playing No. 2 Naomi Osaka of Japan or Polish qualifier Iga Swiatek.

Playing her first event since losing the Wimbledon final, Williams opened with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Elise Mertens of Belgium on Wednesday night. The 37-year-old Williams has won the event three times, all in Toronto.

Fourth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania, making her first start since beating Williams for the Wimbledon title, beat Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-2, 6-1. Halep will face the winner of the night match between Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova and Latvia’s Jalena Ostapenko.

American Sofia Kenin beat Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska 6-2, 6-2. Kenin beat top-ranked Ashleigh Barty in the previous round. In the quarterfinals, Kenin will face sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over 11th-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.