BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain -- Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic picked up the sixth Top 5 win of her career with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No.1 seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain in the second round of the Nature Valley Classic on Thursday.
"I’m a fighter and I like to fight -- on the court and also off the court!" Strycova exclaimed with a laugh, during her on-court post-match interview. "Sometimes when you fight, you get rewards, and I’m very happy with my match today. I played pretty good today."
The unseeded Czech, ranked World No.24, nudged ahead of World No.3 Muguruza in their head-to-head 4-3 after the one-hour and 26-minute encounter. Two of Strycova's previous Top 5 wins had also come against Muguruza.
"I tried to play my best tennis, because you have to, because Garbiñe’s such a great player and such a great champion, and you have to pull it through and play your best," Strycova continued, on court.
Strycova had 16 winners in the match -- five more than former World No.1 Muguruza -- and won 71 percent of points on her first serve. Muguruza was hurt by a whopping 29 unforced errors, and could emerge victorious on only 57 percent of points on her own first serve.
"Every time I play her, I have to play my best tennis, and it happens," Strycova elaborated, during her post-match press conference. "The last two matches were in Eastbourne last year and this year here. I played well and I felt on the court very good, especially today. I was serving very well and it was working a lot."
Strycova, the Birmingham runner-up in 2014 and 2016, will face either No.6 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia or Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the quarterfinals, as they will face off later today in a second-round meeting.
The Czech took hold of the opening set from the outset, earning double break point at 1-1 by forcing an error from Muguruza with a strong forehand, and clinching the 2-1 lead after a Muguruza double fault. Strycova then won eight of the next nine points on her serve en route to a 4-2 lead.
In that game, an error-prone Muguruza found herself in trouble on serve once more, slamming a forehand into the net to give Strycova a break point. On that chance, Strycova dropped a short service return into the court which Muguruza blasted back well long, allowing Strycova to serve for the set at 5-2.
Once again, Strycova was untested on serve, and she held at love after forcing an error with a well-struck backhand. Strycova never faced a break point in the first set. Both players had five winners in the opening frame, but Muguruza was undone by 15 unforced errors.
Muguruza ramped up the aggression in the early stages of the second set, trying to hit her way through Strycova. The Spaniard finally claimed her first break point of the match at 1-0, and converted it for a 2-0 lead with a backhand winner off of a Strycova backhand drop shot.
The top seed extended her lead to 4-2 before Strycova regained her rhythm. The Czech pulled herself back on serve, breaking Muguruza in that game by forcing an error with a perfectly placed forehand in the corner of the court. Strycova then held for 4-4 with a forehand winner down the line, putting herself in striking position for the upset.
Muguruza could not recover from losing her lead, and she quickly dropped serve, giving Strycova the chance to serve out the match at 5-4. Strycova raced to 40-0 but failed to convert any of those three match points, double faulting to slide back to deuce. But from there, two consecutive groundstroke errors by Muguruza handed the match to an excited Strycova.
"It went so quick and I was serving well, nearly two aces and I was 40-0 and I was shaking," Strycova said of the final game, during her press conference. "I'm leading and I'm shaking. I was questioning. Then I start to be very nervous. My hands were shaking. I was like, 'Why I am shaking? This is not a Grand Slam final.'"
"When it was deuce, I had in my mind, 'Oh, my God, I had to put first serve in,'" Strycova continued. "When you have this in your head, it's already bad. So I was like, 'Okay, you have to play by yourself. You have to win it yourself.' She helped me a little bit. When it was deuce, I played the second serve, she went for it, but she missed it. I was very happy that I pulled through somehow."