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Karolina Pliskova rolls by Petra Kvitova, books spot in semis at WTA Finals

AP, Kyodo

Karolina Pliskova won the first set to eliminate Petra Kvitova, and then won the second set to advance to the semifinals at the WTA Finals.

Pliskova, who advanced from her group for the second straight year, beat Kvitova 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday to improve her record to 2-1 at the season-ending tournament.

It was Pliskova’s first victory over Kvitova in their fourth meeting.

“I knew I lost my other matches to her. I knew this time I had a chance because I was playing pretty well in my other two matches here,” Pliskova said on court after the match. “Everything is working well for me this week so I’m just happy.”

In the other group match, Elina Svitolina stayed unbeaten and advanced to the semifinals by beating defending champion Caroline Wozniacki 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.

Kvitova jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Pliskova then won six of the next seven games. Kvitova finished the group with three straight losses.

“I still had a lot of positive thoughts in the match to fight and turn it around, even (if it) didn’t happen,” Kvitova said. “I still need to be fine because I still have the Fed Cup final (against the United States) coming up.”

Kvitova, who is from the Czech Republic, rarely loses to players from her country. Since the 2012 Madrid tournament, the two-time Wimbledon champion has won 27 of 29 matches against Czech opponents.

Svitolina only needed to win one set in the late match to advance, but she had to wait for it.

Wozniacki nearly pulled off the straight-set victory, which would have given her a place in the semifinals instead. But she squandered two game points in the final game of the second set and then sent a backhand long on a fifth-set point for Svitolina.

“It was an amazing match and a tough fight because Caroline always brings the best out of you,” Svitolina said on court. “You have to push your limits against her.”

Wozniacki, who finished with a 1-2 record, felt she was second best on the day.

“I played well in big parts of the match and I had chances in the second set to close it out but it wasn’t to be,” Wozniacki said. “I gave it my all and she just played better than me today.”

Wozniacki has arthritis

Wozniacki was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis before the U.S. Open, she revealed on Thursday.

“It turns out that I have an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, which goes in and attacks your joints,” she said. “When the body has a lot of fluids in it and you swell up, you get tired, you get exhausted, all these things.

“In the beginning, it was a shock. You feel like you’re the fittest athlete out there. That’s what I’m known for, and all of a sudden you have this to work with.”

The 28-year-old Wozniacki won her first Grand Slam title at the 2018 Australian Open. She briefly recaptured the No. 1 ranking after a six-year wait.

After Wimbledon in July, she thought she had the flu while on vacation. Her legs hurt when she started playing again. In August in Montreal, she woke up one morning and couldn’t lift her arms above her head.

Wozniacki thought she may have glandular fever, but the doctor said she was fine. However, she was certain something was wrong and went for more in-depth testing.

She won her third title of the year in Beijing three weeks ago. She said it was initially important to keep the diagnosis a secret.

“I didn’t want to talk about it, obviously, during the year because I didn’t want to give anyone the edge or thinking that I’m not feeling well,” she said. “You learn how to just cope after matches.

“Some days you wake up and you can’t get out of bed, and you just have to know that’s how it is, but other days you’re fine. You don’t even feel like you have it. I didn’t want to look it up, I didn’t want to Google it, because if you Google stuff you feel like you’re going to die,” Wozniacki added with a smile.

After the U.S. Open in September, she decided to do more research on rheumatoid arthritis and her doctor said much progress had been made in managing the disease.

“You just have to be positive and work with it, and there are ways you can feel better, so that’s great,” Wozniacki said. “It’s, obviously, not ideal for anybody. I think when you’re a professional athlete, it’s even more not ideal.

“But at the end of the day, you find a plan, figure out what to do, do your research, and thankfully there are great things now that you can do about it. I’m very proud of how I have been so positive through it all and just kind of tried to not let that hinder me.”

Nishikori into quarters

Kei Nishikori defeated Russia’s Karen Khachanov on Thursday to book a spot in the quarterfinals of the Vienna Open.

World No. 11 Nishikori topped No. 19 Khachanov 6-2, 6-2 in the second round of the ATP 500 tournament at Vienna’s Stadthalle. The fifth seed will next face top-seeded Dominic Thiem, who defeated Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4.

Nishikori, who had lost two of their three previous meetings, broke Khachanov’s serve twice in each set to wrap up the match in just over an hour.

“I’m a little surprised at this score. Everything about the match went well,” Nishikori said.