For the second straight year, Belinda Bencic and Ons Jabeur will play in the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open after both women won three-set second-round matches on Saturday.
No.8 seed Jabeur followed Bencic into the last 16 with a 7-5, 0-6, 6-4 win against Varvara Gracheva, needing nearly two hours to quell the challenge of the world No.73.
In her second career match against a Top 10 player, Gracheva came close to a win; she led 5-2 in the opener, but never reached set point. Jabeur won 20 of the last 23 points in capturing the last five games of the set, and despite losing six straight games in the middle set, rose her level when it mattered in the decider.
After she was up a break twice at 3-1 and 4-3, the third time proved the charm for Jabeur; she broke Gracheva for a sixth and final time in the match before serving out the 1 hour, 56-minute victory.
Scouting Jabeur vs. Bencic: The pair will play for the third time in their careers, both overall and on clay. Bencic has won both; Jabeur retired in the last 16 of the Mutua Madrid Open a year ago when trailing, 7-6(2), 4-3, and Bencic beat her 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 to win Charleston last month.
Bencic edges Muchova to keep unbeaten run intact
Belinda Bencic's eighth straight clay-court win didn't come easily, as the No.11 seed needed 2 hours and 45 minutes to overcome Karolina Muchova and reach the last 16 in Madrid for the third year running.
The match was as tight as its 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 scoreline suggested, and Bencic won the last three games of the decider to take her second career victory against Muchova and eighth straight win of the clay-court season. Neither player lost serve in the final set until Bencic broke at 5-5.
"It was a very tough match and what I expected. In the first set, I felt I was more under control and I was actually able to play my game. In the second set, I lost a little bit of focus in the start of the set and I tried to get myself going a little bit ... just to have my attention again," Bencic told WTA Insider after the match.
"I think she really got into the game a little bit better, she started serving a little bit better ... and I felt like I wasn't in control so much. In the third set, I didn't know if I was going to win the match or not ... so I was happy to stay in the match and stay strong in the important moments."
Eight in a row: Returning to a place where she's had success previously has only strengthened Bencic's confidence amidst her current winning streak.
"I feel like I have match play, and I can feel it. In the important moments, you feel like you know when to do something, when to act and what is your game," Bencic said.
She knows she'll need it against Jabeur. "Ons, she's always tricky on any surface. She finds ways, she plays different, she tries to put you off rhythm. It was a tough match in Charleston ... you always expect the best and she's a Top 10 player."
Anisimova sets Azarenka match
Down a set against Petra Martic, Amanda Anisimova rallied for her second consecutive three-set win in Madrid.
After going toe-to-toe from the baseline in a hard-hitting upset of defending champion Aryna Sabalenka in Round 1, Anisimova kept her wits about her in the face of Martic's slice backhands, topspin forehands and kick serves to win, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.