The latest chapter of the storied rivalry between Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber went the way of the Czech left-hander on Saturday in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open, 6-4, 7-5.
In an all-time history that dates back nine years, Saturday marked just the third time the two left-handers have met before the quarterfinals at a WTA tournament, not including two round-robin matches at the WTA Finals in 2013 and 2015.
Bidding to level their all-time head-to-head at 7-7, Kerber was the first player to break in both sets, but immediately surrendered the advantage in her next service game. Ultimately, Kvitova broke serve again in the final game of each to secure her third victory in six meetings on clay.
"I don't think that I really played like bad games when she broke my serve. It was kind of important to stay calm, which I did very well I think today, through whole match. I just took her straight away back," Kvitova said after the match.
"I served very well, especially in the important points. I think like overall the intensity and the tennis itself was on the high level I would say. I think we really played very well. She even served very well, as well. It was tough to attack her serve.
"I think I was pretty pleased that I stayed calm during the whole match. I was just there, doesn't matter what the score [was]. That's what I'm pleased with."
In what was high-quality performance by both players, Kvitova's power tennis ultimately proved the difference-maker: the Czech's winner total, 33, doubled both that of Kerber (14) and her own unforced error count (16) over the course of one hour and 22 minutes.
Elsewhere, Ons Jabeur earned a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 win over another Grand Slam champion, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens, to follow Kvitova through to the third round and continue her in-form spring on clay.
"I had a little bit of trouble adjusting at the beginning but I'm glad I played well," Jabeur said on-court after the match. "The second set was amazing, and the third set was a very difficult set.
"It's great to be here. I've played a lot of matches lately and I'm glad I'm keeping the rhythm. I love the clay and I'm trying to enjoy every match here."
With the first clay-court match between the two players finely poised at one-set all, there was little to separate the two in the decider: Jabeur earned the decisive break in a lengthy, five-deuce sixth game to lead, 4-2.
Previously in the final set, the Tunisian No.1 saved three break points in each of her first two service games, while Stephens also denied her a chance to break in the fourth game.
In all, Jabeur totaled 27 winners to 25 unforced errors — with Stephens racking up 12 winners and 18 unforced. Though both players had 13 break points chances in the match, Jabeur's conversion rate (7-for-13) was more effective, with Stephens only breaking once in the second and third sets.
After eight wins across two weeks on the green clay in Charleston, Jabeur's tournament debut in Madrid will continue against either No.8 seed Belinda Bencic or another American, qualifier Bernarda Pera.
"I had a feeling that I was playing good, and just needed some adjustments. She was running very good and had a few amazing shots that made it a little bit difficult for me. At the right moments, I really pulled out some great winners," Jabeur told WTA Insider, post-match.
"I was winning matches in Charleston, but I wasn't feeling 100 percent my game. Here, I feel like I'm playing well, sliding well on the clay. I'm enjoying myself here. I think that playing a lot of matches really helped in getting this form. Each match is much better, so I'm... going to continue playing this way, and hopefully much better."