A battle of Top 10 players Thursday at the Western & Southern Open was won by No.9 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, as she defeated No.8 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.
The clash was a rematch of this season's Dubai final, where 2017 Cincinnati champion Muguruza defeated Krejcikova, then ranked outside of the Top 50, in straight sets.
However, Krejcikova's surge to the top of the game has only accelerated since that week, and the newest member of the Top 10 avenged that loss against the former World No.1 on the hardcourts of Cincinnati after 2 hours and 24 minutes of play.
Key stats: Reigning Roland Garros champion Krejcikova slammed 14 aces and won 86 percent of her first-service points to quell the challenge from two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza. Krejcikova saved all five break points she faced in the tilt.
Notable moments: Muguruza did well to grit out a close tiebreak at the end of a second set which featured zero breaks of service. But Krejcikova was untroubled in the bookending sets, which she swept through without much fuss.
Muguruza put up an incredible fight in the final game, saving five match points before Krejcikova at last closed out the victory on her sixth opportunity.
World No.1 awaits: Krejcikova will next have a quarterfinal meeting with World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, after the top seed cruised past defending champion Victoria Azarenka earlier on Thursday. In their only prior meeting, Barty knocked Krejcikova out in the fourth round of Wimbledon last month, en route to the title.
Big day for Czechs as Kvitova, Pliskova also win
Krejcikova was joined by her compatriots Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals, after they both notched wins over lower-ranked opponents, which nevertheless held some surprises.
No.11 seed Kvitova, still seeking a first trip to the Western & Southern Open final, dispatched Ons Jabeur with ease, 6-1, 6-2, in just over an hour of play. Kvitova won 67 percent of points returning the second serve of Jabeur, leading to five breaks of service in the match.
Jabeur had been on a roll of late, cracking the Top 20 of the WTA singles rankings for the first time this week. Jabeur had pushed Kvitova to two tiebreak sets in their last meeting at Doha last year, and she was aiming for another upset a day after ousting Iga Swiatek from the draw.
But Kvitova stopped the Tunisian's momentum, storming to victory and setting up an eye-catching quarterfinal meeting with former World No.1 Angelique Kerber. The two Grand Slam champions and fellow left-handers have met 15 times -- the most-played opponent for both.
No.5 seed Pliskova booked her quarterfinal spot by turning around a rivalry which had been a true bugaboo for her this season, as she moved past Jessica Pegula of the United States, 6-4, 7-6(5), in an hour and 24 minutes.
Rising American Pegula, currently ranked inside the Top 25, had beaten Pliskova in all four of their previous meetings, all of which have come in 2021. It appeared that a fifth straight win might follow as Pegula took an early 4-1 lead in the opening set.
But 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Pliskova had a comeback up her sleeve as she reeled off five games in a row to eke out the one-set lead. Pliskova then fell behind in the second set as well, trailing 0-5. But, once again, the Czech steeled herself to win five straight games to tie the set at 5-5, saving a set point at 5-4.
Pegula had another set point at 6-5, but Pliskova got out of that jam as well, then took a big 6-1 lead in the tiebreak, holding five match points. Pegula staved off the first four, hoping for a stunning comeback, but Pliskova at last closed out the win with a winner that dribbled over the netcord.