MADRID -- Petra Martic has never been afraid to take on a big player in a big moment. Rather, she seems to relish these opportunities.

Four years ago, she reached the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open, defeating multiple-Grand Slam winners Garbiñe Muguruza and Angelique Kerber in the process. A month later, Martic took out Ons Jabeur and No.2-ranked Karolina Pliskova in another quarterfinal run, this one at Roland Garros.

We bring this up because on Wednesday she’s contemplating an even more daunting double when she meets World No.1 Iga Swiatek (8 p.m. local time). With her dramatic 6-3, 7-6(1) Round of 16 victory over Barbora Krejcikova, Martic is attempting to defeat the two players who won the past three titles at Roland Garros.

“I mean another Grand Slam champion -- on clay, as well,” Martic said, laughing at the degree of difficulty she faces. “Not much to lose.”

Madrid: Martic's five best drop shots vs. Krejcikova in Round 4

2023 Madrid

Indeed, in their only previous meeting -- two years ago in Indian Wells -- Swiatek won comfortably, 6-1, 6-3. Swiatek has held the top ranking for 57 weeks and counting, and since the beginning of the 2020 season has won 44 matches on clay, the most of any Hologic WTA Tour player.

And yet, there are reasons the 32-year-old from Croatia believes she’s got a chance.

Exhibit No.1 is Swiatek’s Monday match against Ekaterina Alexandrova. After a relatively comfortable first set, it suddenly got complicated and Swiatek was severely challenged before pulling out a 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3 victory.  The match clocked in at 2 hours, 25 minutes and ended past 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Swiatek wins, set to take on Martic in quarterfinals

Martic, despite that lone head-to-head loss, is quite familiar with Swiatek’s game. After winning the title in Stuttgart, Swiatek hurried off to Madrid, where her first practice was … with Martic.

“She can really play well on clay, so I think it’s going to be tough,” Swiatek said. “She’s a really experienced player so you never know in a quarterfinal.”

Swiatek’s brief post-match interview contained a succinct scouting report. Alexandrova, she said, “played really precise and fast balls” in that nervy second set.

Against Krejcikova, Martic was, at times, precise and fast. She’ll need to sustain it even longer against Swiatek. Martic served well in her previous match, particularly on second serve, when she won 17 of 29 points (59 percent). Likewise, Martic was aggressive on Krejcikova’s second serve, winning 13 of 18 points (72 percent).

“I think I served well, and that always helps my game,” Martic said afterward. “In the end, she started to return really well. I think she raised her level. I was in a little bit of danger, but in the end, I think I managed to stay just calm, not panic.”

Last year was a good one for Martic. She won her second career title in Lausanne and scored three wins against Top 10 players -- Anett Kontaveit in Rome, Jessica Pegula (Wimbledon) and Paula Badosa (US Open).

Back in February, Martic reached the final in Linz by beating Maria Sakkari in the semifinals. She was defeated there by Anastasia Potapova.

“From the beginning of the season I was slowly playing better and better,” Martic said. “I feel like the last couple of weeks I feel like my game really improved a lot. I was just hoping it was going to come together here. I really love Madrid. So I’m really happy that it happened.

“I’m trying not to think about my opponent, focusing on my game and it’s been working so far. So let’s see.”