MADRID, Spain - The art of the comeback was a big theme at the Mutua Madrid Open on Wednesday night, with Angelique Kerber, Maria Kirilenko, Daniela Hantuchova and Ana Ivanovic all battling back from a set down to win as the second round ended and the third round began at the Premier event.
Kirilenko and Hantuchova won the last two second round matches of the week, with the No.13-seeded Kirilenko winning through first, blasting 10 aces to beat Kristina Mladenovic over three sets, 67(5) 61 64. Slovakian wildcard Hantuchova followed with a 26 62 63 upset of No.8 seed Petra Kvitova, the win over the World No.8 being her second Top 10 win of the year - she beat Sara Errani in Brisbane.
"It feels great to get my first win over Petra - she's such a great player and I have so much respect for her game," Hantuchova said after the match. "I had three days waiting, so I was really looking forward to this match - and I'm really pleased with the way I played today, especially in the third set.
"It's quite late now and I have another match tomorrow, but that's what we're used to and that's what we prepare for. Hopefully I will be ready. Kaia plays a similar kind of game to Petra, very aggressive from both sides, so I'm going to try and mix it up and play smart. We'll see what happens."
The first two third round matches were also on the schedule, with the No.6-seeded Kerber winning the first one against Svetlana Kuznetsova in a marathon, 36 64 75. Kuznetsova led the early goings, going up a set and a break at 63 10 and even holding a point for a 63 20 lead - but Kerber is never one to give up, winning the next four games and never falling behind again during the rest of the match.
"In the first set I was not there - I was somewhere else, but not on the court," Kerber said. "It was very tough out there today. Svetlana was playing very well - I tried to fight back into the match and by the end I was just thinking point by point, just hoping and trying to play the balls in as much as I can. At the end I think it was just two or three points I played more aggressive that made the difference.
"It could have gone either way at the end."
Kerber talked about having to up her level for the next round. "I'm happy I won today, but for my next match I have to be focused from the first point," she said. "I'm looking forward to it, though."
The No.16-seeded Ivanovic won the other third round match of the day, albeit barely - the former World No.1 also had to battle from a set down but also had to come from 5-2 down in the third set to beat Laura Robson, 57 62 76(5) - Robson was fresh off an upset of No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Kerber and Ivanovic will now meet in the quarterfinals on Friday - Ivanovic has beaten Kerber in both of their previous meetings, and while Ivanovic's first win came way back in 2006, the other one could be very relevant, a 75 75 win in Fed Cup play on indoor clay just a few weeks ago in Stuttgart.
Another player snuck through to the quarterfinals later on in the day, but in a very different way - Yaroslava Shvedova was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a right arm injury, sending Spanish wildcard Anabel Medina Garrigues into the last eight. Medina Garrigues, a former World No.16 now ranked No.63 in the world, is now through to the biggest WTA quarterfinal of her career (she has been to Premier-level quarterfinals before, but never a Premier Mandatory-level quarterfinal).
"It's the same injury that forced me out of the tournament in Portugal last week - my right arm is hurting," Shvedova said about her withdrawal. "It's especially disappointing as I have played some great tennis so far this week, but I don't want to risk making the condition worse. Right now I plan to take a couple of weeks to let my arm recover and I'm hoping to be ready for Roland Garros.
"I'm really sorry to have to withdraw from the tournament. I look forward to returning next year."