CINCINNATI, OH, USA - No.4 seed Garbiñe Muguruza saved three match points to survive No.6 seed Madison Keys at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3) to move into the quarterfinals for the second straight year.
After a lengthy rain delay at 2-2 in the final set, the Wimbledon champion trailed 4-2 in the before winning three straight to force Keys to serve to stay in the match. Nonetheless, Muguruza later found herself needed to come back from 40-15 down after the American secured a pivotal break at 5-5 to stay in the match.
An early mini-break advantage for the No.4 seed stood up in the final set tiebreak, as she also won the last three points to steal her first victory against the Bank of the West Classic champion.
"I know I had three match points against, but I did feel that I was doing the right thing," Muguruza said. "She was playing good in the important moments. She was serving better with the match. I think in the third set she played much better. It was a tough fight. We both were playing good. It was tricky with the wind and then the rain delay.
"I'm happy that I ended up winning, you know, not giving any point away for free, especially when you see yourself close of losing and then you turn around, you know, it's a very good feeling to come out and winning the match."
The American found her range quickly upon resumption from the rain delay, as the match resumed with Muguruza serving at 15-0 in the final set. With Keys looking as if she'd streak towards the finish as she pushed for another break at 0-15 in the seventh game, the Spaniard nabbed the next four points to work her way back into the match.
"She came out strong and she did few incredible shots," Muguruza said of Keys' hot start. "That's also her style of game. You know, sometimes she plays incredible, big serves, big shots, but I knew that no matter what, she's going to play, and I'm there and I have my options as well, because the match is tight.
"I didn't really care. You know, I was just, like, Okay, whatever. I'm going to, sooner or later, have a chance."
"It started really windy, and I think everyone could see we were both struggling on our serves, then the rain came, and then it was just really heavy after that, it felt," Keys said in defeat. "I think it was kind of two different matches kind of smashed together. I think she played amazingly well at the end. She really didn't give me any unforced errors or anything like that.
"I obviously had some unforced errors that I wasn't happy about, but I felt like I had to go for it because she was just going to make everything."
The duo split two tough sets in nearly an hour and a half to begin the contest, as Muguruza came out on top of an opener that last a quarter of an hour and saw five breaks of serve.
The American twice led by a break at 2-0 and 3-1 only to see Muguruza respond each time, and the No.4 seed grabbed the decisive break of the set to close out a lengthy nineth game, winning her first set in the last six played in the head-to-head.
The second set saw both players solid on serve, as Keys grabbed the only break in the eighth game on her lone break point of the set, before emphatically sending the match to a decider.
Muguruza had a trio of chances to take the lead on Keys' serve in the third game of the set, but in the end, the American forced a decider for the second time in four career meetings, and first since the first match between the two - also in Cincinnati, in 2012.