Karolina Muchova added yet another stunning win over a top player to her collection with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 upset of World No.2 Naomi Osaka in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open on Sunday.
"It was a tough match today, but we had some preparation," Muchova told the press after completing her win. "I was ready to play with all I had today, and to use all the weapons I could and [do] what I can. I'm definitely happy it worked out today."
The rising Czech captured her third win over a Top 5 player this season, and her tenth Top 5 win in her career overall, with her one-hour and 49-minute victory over reigning Australian Open champion Osaka.
"It's not specific preparation if I play Top 10 players, or Top 20 or Top 50 players," Muchova said. "It's usually very similar, but I'm just trying to prepare as much as I can and as best I can, and then I just try to play my best on the court."
Fresh off her Top 20 debut in the WTA singles rankings on Monday, Muchova continued to impress in her Madrid tournament debut, as she plays only her second event since her breakthrough semifinal run at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Muchova struggled with an abdominal injury after her Melbourne exploits, which included a win over World No.1 Ashleigh Barty. But the Czech looked in fine form against Osaka, as she survived a second-set comeback by the No.2 seed. Muchova had 29 winners, two more than Osaka, and converted half of her eight break points on the day.
Both players displayed powerful serving in the first set, but Osaka faltered early, double faulting down break point to cede a 2-1 lead to Muchova. Osaka could not recover that break, as Muchova punched away a volley in the next game to save the only break point she faced in the set. Muchova eased to the one-set lead, ending the opening frame with another unreturned serve.
Muchova took control early in the second set as well, breaking for another 2-1 lead with continued aggression. However, Osaka was up to the task, increasing the intensity with her stellar forehand and earning her first break of the day with that wing to level the set at 3-3.
Osaka grabbed the momentum and dominated behind that shot, knocking off five games in a row to sweep through the rest of the set and tie up the match at one set apiece. While the players had roughly equivalent success behind their first serve in each set, Muchova’s first-service percentage dropped from 73 percent in the opener to 52 percent in the second set.
In the decider, though, Muchova got back on track. At 1-0, the Czech fired a passing winner to set up break point, then used a deep return to earn an early break. Muchova was untroubled the rest of the way, zipping home from there to notch her tenth match-win of the season and claim her spot in the Madrid round of 16.
"I was trying to move [Osaka] as much as possible," Muchova said. "That was the tactic. It sounds easy like that, but, you know, she's playing really fast so it's not that easy on the court.
"In the second set especially, she started to be very aggressive. I got back to what I did in the first set in the third set, and again, tried to move her left, right, dropshots, but still in a fast way. In the third set, it went my way."
Next up for Muchova will be No.16 seed Maria Sakkari, who defeated Anett Kontaveit, 6-3, 6-1, in a hair over an hour of play.
Sakkari and Kontaveit have already built up a hefty head-to-head which was deadlocked at four wins apiece prior to their Madrid encounter. This time around, though, the Greek dominated, as Sakkari saved both of the break points she faced in the match, and out-winnered Kontaveit by ten to four.
In her post-match press conference, Sakkari called Kontaveit "an extremely good player. We are great friends outside the court. It's always tough to play her, but I think I have played her the most out of every other WTA player.
"She has an overall good game. She plays good from both sides from the baseline, and you just have to stick to the strategy and, you know, try to do things the right way."
Thus, World No.19 Sakkari continues her best-ever showing in Madrid, having lost in the first round in her two previous main-draw showings at the event in 2018 and 2019.
"I think today was very solid from every aspect," Sakkari said. "I think I served well. Strategy-wise it worked really well, and I have nothing to complain about basically," she added with a smile.