Irina Bara offered a good performance but Polona Hercog played a no-nonsense match to gain access to her thiurd WTA quarterfinal of the season. With a faultless streak of five breaks from five looks, she completed a 7-5 6-2 victory against the rising Romanian qualifier who defeated the Slovenian in their only previous meeting, in the second round of the ITF $60,000 event in Dunakeszi last August.
The hard-serving Hercog opened with a break but Bara surprised her with her natural allure towards the net. More than mixing her game with chip and charges, serve and volleys, she smashed the ball as a way to step forward and close the point.
Speed and a deep understanding of the game are essential to this gameplan, and Irina demonstrated to possess both as she managed to break when Hercog served for the set at 5-4. Two long games ensued that gave the Slovenian the hard-fought and deserved one-set lead.
The temperature became hotter, but the crowd had fewer chances to heat as Hercog put three aces and an extremely consistent performance on serve during the second set to seal the 15th overall win of the season. No.2 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu came back from a double break down in the second set to complete a 6-3 7-5 victory over Tamara Zidansek who gained a 4-1 lead.
At that point, according to the Romanian channel DigiSport, she had a very tense on-court dialogue with her coach Septimiu Frăţilă. "She plays a lot of cross" he said, "you hear me? So, don't be afraid to go down the line: when you attack, she goes crosscourt and hit a higher ball".
But Buzărnescu, almost in tears, protested that she went down the line to no avail while Frăţilă, angrier and angrier, violently asked her not to shout at him. "Come on, you're better!", the coach said to finish his on-court intervention.
Evidently his style worked as the Romanian staged a fiery comeback to increase her head-to-head record to 3-0, relying on an impressive 62% of return points against the Slovenian's second deliveries. Buzarnescu, who converted 11 of her 18 break points, advanced to the quarterfinals in her home tournament.
She will meet Yafan Wang as Pauline Parmentier,
after dropping the opening set tiebreak, had to retire for a neck issue. The Chinese now leads 2-1 the head to head series against the French veteran as she took their second-round encounter indoors in Taipei City and lost on clay in Strasbourg this season.
Her fifth win on clay will give Wang the chance to play the second WTA quarterfinal of the season No.1 seed Anastasija Sevastova, one of only two previous finalists remaining in the draw (alongside 2015 champion Anna Karolina Schmiedlova), who reached the title-match, defeated Arantxa Rus 6-1 7-5. The world No.22 will face either Maryna Zanevska or Bucharest native and No.5 seed Sorana Cirstea