Stuttgart has produced a fantastic slate of quarter-finals and one match to cancel ALL your plans for will be the second quarter-final featuring the number three and five seeds, Garbiñe Muguruza and Petra Kvitova… I wish I could follow my own advice but this is scheduled while i’m at work *major sad face*.
Kvitova was on the brink in a wild, wacky and frankly wonderful second round match against Monica Niculescu. Saving three match points, Kvitova rallied to gain revenge against Niculescu, who had won their most recent encounter in Fed Cup action. Niculescu was impenetrable in the first set and made just ONE unforced error. The second set was super entertainment; a good tactic against Niculescu is to come forward and close her off at the net and Kvitova was definitely trying to do this… with mixed success!
The errors subsided for Kvitova as she played some high quality and patient tennis to lead 5-2 in the second set. She even had a set point, but the purple patch didn’t last as Niculescu’s funky forehand slice and tireless defence contributed to another barren spell of error-strewn play for the Czech player. To her credit, Kvitova hung on serving at *5-6, saving the three match points. The first one was pure luck with a return clipping the net and falling on Niculescu’s side. The second and third were pure class with Kvitova showing some wonderful touch up at the net. Kvitova carried the momentum into the tiebreak, which she won seven points to five, and then powered through the decider, coming away with the victory, 2-6 7-6(5) 6-2 in two hours and 42 minutes.
Muguruza produced a clinical display to defeat Timea Babos, 6-2 6-2, on Wednesday night. The scoreline was perhaps a little kind to Muguruza as it wasn’t her most convincing display of the year. Where she did perform well was on return; she wasn’t crashing winners but produced subtle aggression, forcing Babos on the backfoot with consistent depth. The Spaniard was clutch on the big points, winning five of the six games that went to deuce, and saving all six break points she faced in the second set. The first serve percentage was at 53% for the match; it improved slightly in the second set but most important of all, it delivered the goods when she was in trouble down break points. A decent display for her first match, but room for improvement.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Muguruza edged Kvitova in a tight three setter at the WTA Finals in Singapore last year, 6-4 4-6 7-5.
Final thoughts: I’ve said it many times but coming through saving match points is a huge confidence boost and almost seems to relax the player having been so close to defeat. For Kvitova, she did extremely well to get out of her second round match against a nifty, Niculescu. Kvitova made a whopping 61 net approaches against Niculescu and i’m intrigued to see whether she continues to come forward; it wasn’t always successful but i’ve always regarded Kvitova as solid at the net, although it seems to be a tactic that she has used less of in recent years. Muguruza’s ability to come in after a good serve is something that sets her apart from the rest and could be key in this match.
This should be a brutal battle of big hitting; it will be unlikely that both play their best at the same time but if they do, this could be special. Going three sets again, but sticking with my original pick of Muguruza whose game looks well suited to the clay in Stuttgart…