On a rain-interrupted Wednesday at the Sydney Tennis Classic, two of the newest members of the Top 10, No.4 seed Anett Kontaveit and No.3 seed Barbora Krejcikova, earned straight-set wins over Romanian opposition to move into the elite eight.
Early in the day, World No.7 Kontaveit of Estonia dismissed qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 6-1 in 1 hour and 16 minutes to claim her spot in the quarterfinals.
"I'm very happy with the win," Kontaveit said in her post-match press conference. "First it was a little tougher, but then I felt like I got my game going a little bit more and I felt like I was playing better as the match went on."
Fast facts: Kontaveit went on a tear at the end of last season, winning 29 of her last 33 matches, including four WTA singles titles, to burst into the Top 10. This season, she is off to a similarly spirited start for Kontaveit as she has won her first two matches of the year in straight sets this week.
Ruse made a surge of her own in the second half of last year, climbing from outside the Top 200 to her current ranking of No.82, bolstered by her first WTA singles title in Hamburg last summer. But she was denied her first Top 10 win and her first hard-court WTA quarterfinal by Kontaveit.
Key moments: Ruse used strong forehands to twice lead by a break in the opening set, at 2-0 and 3-2. But Kontaveit moved into action from that point forward, using powerful play to notch the final four games of the set.
Ruse staved off three break points to hold serve in the opening game of the second set, but that would be her last mark on the scoreboard as Kontaveit won six games in a row to seal victory. Kontaveit won 65 percent of points off of the Ruse second serve in the clash.
Top 10 showdown awaits: Kontaveit will face World No.10 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the quarterfinals after Jabeur defeated Petra Kvitova for the first time in their four meetings.
Kontaveit's season-ending run in 2021 qualified her for the year-end Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara at the expense of Jabeur, and the pair have enjoyed good-natured banter about it since:
Krejcikova steers past Cristian
World No.4 Krejcikova survived a rain delay and a second-set fightback to defeat Jaqueline Cristian 6-1, 7-5 in her first singles match of 2022 for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Krejcikova, who rose from No.65 into the Top 5 during 2021, boosted by a Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros, took 1 hour and 35 minutes to quell the challenge from 73rd-ranked Cristian. The Czech had eight aces in the match and converted six of her seven break points.
Cristian also drastically improved her ranking in 2021, rising nearly 100 spots in the rankings over the last 12 months. However, in only her second match against a Top 10 opponent, Cristian was unable to completely turn around the match as Krejcikova held on in a tight second set.
Highlights: Krejcikova defeats Cristian
Krejcikova breezed through the opening set, converting all four of her break points as she never let the Romanian hold serve. Things changed, though, after a roughly hourlong rain delay during the first game of the second set led to the match being moved from an open outside court to the covered stadium.
Under the roof after the delay, Cristian's game flourished, battling Krejcikova's forward movement and volleys with powerful groundstrokes. But Krejcikova stayed sturdy, saving a break point with a bold crosscourt backhand and holding for 5-4. Krejcikova took charge in the final game, breaking Cristian at love to capture the hard-fought win.
Garcia receives walkover from injured Rybakina
Caroline Garcia of France will be Krejcikova's quarterfinal opponent. The Former Top 5 player Garcia made the quarterfinals after No.9 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan withdrew from their second-round clash with a left thigh injury.
The 13th-ranked Rybakina had been one of the hottest players on tour so far this season before the injury. Last week, Rybakina reached the Adelaide final, stopped only by World No.1 Ashleigh Barty. On Tuesday, Rybakina dispatched her fellow Top 20 player Emma Raducanu, ceding only a single game to the reigning US Open champion.
“Unfortunately, after playing a lot of tennis last week and then coming to Sydney and playing last night, my body has not recovered well and my thigh is causing me problems," Rybakina said. "I am sad to have to withdraw from my match today and wish everybody the best for the rest of the tournament.”
Garcia, who is currently ranked No.75, surprised World No.22 Jessica Pegula in the opening round. It was Garcia's first win over a Top 50 player since she defeated Angelique Kerber in Dubai 10 months ago.
Kasatkina bests Mertens, Badosa overcomes Tomljanovic
Daria Kasatkina of Russia also moved into the quarterfinals, knocking out Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-4 in a battle between Top 30 players. Kasatkina will face World No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza in the last eight.
World No.26 Kasatkina needed 1 hour and 11 minutes to defeat 20th-ranked Mertens and post another quality result in 2022. Last week, Kasatkina reached the semifinals at Melbourne Summer Set 2 before falling to eventual champion Amanda Anisimova.
The Sydney night session saw No.5 seed Paula Badosa reach her first quarterfinal of the year with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of home hope Ajla Tomljanovic in 1 hour and 29 minutes.
There were 13 breaks of serve in total across a match that saw both players repeatedly threaten to seize scoreboard momentum, but never quite run away with it. Badosa, however, was the more resilient in the biggest moments.
Highlights: Badosa d. Tomljanovic
The Spaniard recovered after failing to serve the first set out to immediately break Tomljanovic to seal it anyway, and came back from 3-1 down to win five of the last six games. The most important of those was a five-deuce eighth game. Badosa eventually slammed a forehand return winner to convert her fifth break point and level at 4-4.
Though Badosa, landing 54% of her first serves, struggled to hold, Tomljanovic's service woes were more pronounced. The Australian World No.45 committed seven double faults, almost all of which came at inopportune times. Two paved the way for Badosa to break for 3-2 in the first set, another conceded an immediate break back in the second game of the second set, and the last was the opening point of that crucial eighth game.