No fewer than eight of the Hologic WTA Tour Top 10 players were in action Thursday in the Round of 16 at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. The last time that happened was a year ago in Doha, but it’s been 14 years since a tournament featured nine -- and that was in Cincinnati.
As it turned out, five of them survived and advanced to Friday's quarterfinals -- with emphasis on survival.
No.1 Iga Swiatek dropped the first set to Zheng Qinwen but came back to win in three sets. Qualifier Jasmine Paolini advanced when No.4 Elena Rybakina retired with an injury. Paolini is ranked No.43, underlining the depth in the field.
Later, No.35 Marie Bouzkova took down recent Montreal champion and World No.3 Jessica Pegula. No.8 Maria Sakkari fell to unseeded Karolina Muchova.
Here’s a snapshot of the final eight players and their matchups featured on Friday’s schedule:
No.1 Iga Swiatek vs. No.10 Marketa Vondrousova
Head-to-head: 1-0 Swiatek.
Vondrousova lost the only previous meeting, 6-1, 6-2, three years ago at Roland Garros -- the first victory in the first major title run for Swiatek. This one pits the winners of the two most recent Grand Slams.
Swiatek: She lost the first set to Zheng but rallied for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory. The 22-year-old from Poland is in her 72nd week at No.1, the 10th most all time. Only two women have held the No.1 ranking for more consecutive weeks in their first stint at No.1: Steffi Graf (186) and Martina Hingis (80).
Swiatek has been especially proficient in WTA 1000 events. She’s now 60-17 (77.9 percent), behind only Serena Williams. For what it’s worth, the top-seeded player is 18-1 in the Cincinnati quarterfinals in the Open Era. Agnieszka Radwanska lost to Li Na in 2012.
Vondrousova: The freshly minted Wimbledon champion was a 7-5, 6-3 winner over Sloane Stephens on Thursday, after taking out Anastasia Potapova 6-4, 6-2 in her first match. Coco Gauff ended Vondrousova’s nine-match win streak in the Round of 16 in Montreal. This is her fifth career WTA 1000 quarterfinal, but her first in more than three years.
No.7 Coco Gauff vs. Jasmine Paolini
Head-to-head: 1-0, Gauff.
Gauff was only 16 when she scored a 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-2 victory over the Italian in the 2021 Adelaide 500.
Gauff: The 19-year-old was a 6-4, 6-0 winner over qualifier Linda Noskova -- the first all-teenage Round of 16 match in a WTA 1000 since Caroline Wozniacki-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova some 13 years ago. It was the 18-year-old from the Czech Republic who took No.9 seed Petra Kvitova out in the second round.
Gauff is looking for her third semifinal berth in a WTA 1000, after 2023 Dubai and 2021 Rome. She has produced a record of 40-24 in the 1000s, the most victories of any player before turning 20.
Paolini: She lost the first set but advanced when Rybakina retired with the score 4-6, 5-2. It was the first Round of 16 loss at a WTA 1000 event for the 2022 Wimbledon champion. Underscoring the upset, Rybakina still leads all players with 23 match-wins in WTA 1000s this year.
This was only the second Top 10 win of Paolini’s career and ended an 0-5 streak in 2023. Paolini is the first Italian since Roberta Vinci in 2013 to make the quarterfinals of this tournament and the first Italian to reach the quarters of a WTA 1000 as a qualifier.
Karolina Muchova vs. Marie Bouzkova
In this all-Czech unseeded encounter, Bouzkova won their 2015 match in Portschach, Austria. Muchova then prevailed four years later in the second round of qualifying at the Miami Open.
Bouzkova: She is on a tear this year. The 25-year-old scored her third straight win against a Top 5 player, this time against No.4 Jessica Pegula, 6-4, 6-0. Previously, she defeated No.5 Coco Gauff (2023 Rome) and No.5 Caroline Garcia (2023 Wimbledon). Before those three wins, she had lost her last seven matches against Top 5 opponents. This is Bouzkova’s third quarterfinal berth in a WTA 1000, following semifinal appearances in 2019 Toronto and 2022 Guadalajara.
Muchova: Ranked No.17, Muchova just missed out on a seeding but is proving to be a formidable player when free of injuries. Muchova, 26, knocked out No.12 Beatriz Haddad Maia in the first round and Petra Martic in the second. On Thursday, Muchova defeated No.8 Maria Sakkari 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. All three matches went the distance.
No.2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No.5 Ons Jabeur
Head-to-head: 3-2, Sabalenka.
In a rousing Wimbledon semifinal last month, Jabeur emerged with a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3 victory in their most recent match. Previously, Sabalenka had won three straight, most recently at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth.
Sabalenka: She scored a routine 6-3, 6-3 victory over No.14 Daria Kasatkina and reached her third quarterfinal in Cincinnati, her personal best in WTA 1000s. It was her first win over a Top 20 player in her last three attempts.
This was Sabalenka’s 43rd win of the season, trailing only Swiatek (52). Only Rybakina has more aces than Sabalenka (133) in WTA 1000 events.
"I still have a lot of energy and a lot of goals and I still want to make them happen," Sabalenka said Thursday.
Jabeur: Jabeur was leading 5-2 in the first set Friday when Donna Vekic retired with a viral illness. And so, Jabeur finds herself in the quarterfinals, where the seedings say she belongs.
But in her first match since losing the final at Wimbledon, Jabeur was down 5-1 in the third set to Anhelina Kalinina -- and came back to win in a third-set tiebreak. The Tunisian equaled her best effort in Cincinnati. She’s a two-time finalist in WTA 1000 events on clay, winning Madrid in 2022 and, the following week, losing to Swiatek in Rome.
“At this level, you’re going to meet with Aryna, with players like her all the time,” Jabeur said. “I’m looking forward to having another great match against her. I know she didn’t forgive me for the Wimbledon semifinals, so it’s going to be a fun match, for sure.”