Garbiñe Muguruza avoided the recent runaway train of “upset” seeds to book her spot in the quarter-finals of Doha where she will play Andrea Petkovic. The Dubai-Doha Middle East swing has been unpredictable to say the least; the recurring theme of surprise results continued on Wednesday with the loss of Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Eugenie Bouchard from the draw to add to the seven seeds who exited on Tuesday. On a positive note, there have been some seeds who have performed well this week and this particular quarter-final does match the calibre of this Premier 5 event.
After losing in the second round of Dubai to Elina Svitolina, Muguruza sounded despondent from reports in press and reportedly considered skipping Doha. She hung around to take her position in the draw and is still standing, producing two vastly improved displays so far this week. Muguruza defeated Nao Hibino, 6-2 6-0 in the second round, coming through a couple of tight games before powering through the last 10 games of the match. Muguruza’s third round win was arguably her best display of the year, defeating an in-form, Timea Babos, 6-2 7-5. The Hungarian player really stepped up her game in the second set but Muguruza demonstrated her quality, matching her all the way and winning through on the crucial points.
There were a few nervy moments at the end of the match with Muguruza going down *15-40 after a double fault. The Spaniard hasn’t always been the cleanest closer of matches and perhaps it was also a reflection of her start to the year. Muguruza got a little lucky on the first break point at *15-40 with a dreadful drop shot but Babos didn’t do enough with the volley as Muguruza clawed out a lob winner (see tweet below). Big serving once again got her out of trouble before she showed some stunning movement to chase down a ball on match point. Muguruza has looked a little sluggish so far this year, but was much sharper in this one. Furthermore, she was moving forward onto any short balls, a tactic that worked so well in 2016.
It’s wonderful to see Petkovic not only winning, but enjoying her tennis again. She secured a third straight win over CoCo Vandeweghe, progressing, 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 33 minutes. She kept it pretty simple with a very solid display while also benefitting from an erratic, Vandeweghe. The American player won just five points on her second serve and kept missing on return, failing to put any pressure on Petkovic in the final game of the match.
Head-to-head record: Interestingly, Petkovic leads Muguruza in their head-to-head, 2-0 with wins in Luxembourg (4-6 6-2 6-1, 2012) and Sofia (6-1 6-4, 2014)
Interesting stat: Petkovic is the only player to have reached the quarter-finals of both Dubai and Doha. Thanks to Team Kerberazzi on Twitter for also pointing out that Petkovic has reached the quarter-finals at all three of her WTA events this year.
Final thoughts: This should be a fun one… while Petkovic has won their last four sets, Muguruza’s rise to relevance has been swift since their last meeting in 2014. The Spaniard’s performance against Babos was extremely efficient, making the all-important breakthrough at the crux of a high quality second set to seal the win in straight sets. Petkovic is regaining her status as one of the most consistent players on tour and confidence seems to be slowly coming back. I’m still a little wary of Muguruza’s level as she competes in her first quarter-final of the year but if she can execute her gameplan with the same precision that she achieved against Babos then i’d fancy her to be too strong for Petkovic.