ROLAND GARROS, France - Defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza overcame the variety of the No.27 seed Yulia Putintseva 7-5, 6-2 to move into the second week of the French Open for the fourth time today.
The diminutive Kazakh is known for her spirited challenges to top players - in last year's quarterfinals, for instance, she was five points from a win over none other than Serena Williams. Even when the flow of a match seems to be going against her, Putintseva is rarely put off - as she demonstrated in the first set in which the momentum swung back and forth.
Muguruza was out of the blocks quicker, breaking immediately, but her 22-year-old opponent scrambled brilliantly - at one point scurrying from one edge of the court to the other to retrieve the Spaniard's volleys, eventually nailing the pass - to strike back for a 3-1 lead.
But the No.4 seed has grit of her own; tightening up her footwork and renewing the ferocity of her groundstrokes, she powered through 14 consecutive points to take her to the brink of the set. Once again, Putintseva was undeterred, varying the height and depth of her strokes to goad Muguruza into errors and tie the set at 5-5.
The Kazakh, though, was beset by rather more uncharacteristic errors of her own, particularly on the forehand side - and it was this wing that let her down as she tried to build on her comeback. The defending champion made no mistake in serving the set out at the second time of asking.
Muguruza's momentum took an upward swing in the second set, immediately breaking serve with three blistering backhands. It was that wing that continued to do the most damage, with the Spaniard able to fire it down the line and cross-court at will - though the Spaniard also managed to push her 5'4" opponent so far back in the court with a moonball that Putintseva collided with an advertising hoarding, which she kicked in frustration after losing the point.
There was one mini-fightback left in the Kazakh, but by now Muguruza was unstoppable as she accelerated towards the finishing line. The Spaniard closed the match out in style with her second ace to set up a meeting with either Kristina Mladenovic or Shelby Rogers.
"I'm happy I went out there without any kind of fear," said Muguruza. "I wanted the match. I tried to just do what I had to do and keep that during the whole match.
"I was not thinking a lot because it's, you know, a lot of thinking in this tournament for me in the matches and stuff, so I try to go out there and block everything and just think about what I have to do to win.
"The more matches I play - and tough victories - I think it gives you self-confidence, a successful feeling out there."