By Ros Satar, in Madrid
- Daria Gavrilova def. Petra Kvitova 6-3 6-4
- Victoria Azarenka withdraws with a back injury
- Sam Stosur def. Carla Suarez Navarro  4-6 6-2 6-3
- Simona Halep  def. Timea Bacsinszky  6-2 6-3
MADRID, SPAIN – Simona Halep closed out the round of 16 as the last seed standing as defending champion Petra Kvitova lost and Victoria Azarenka withdrew injured.
Daria Gavrilova def. Petra Kvitova 6-3 6-4
The carnage in the top half of the WTA draw just kept on rolling, as Aussie battler Gavrilova picked apart a lacklustre Kvitova for a place in the Madrid quarter-final, on her debut at the tournament.
This year the young Aussie has had the measure of Kvitova, dismantling her in similar fashion at the Australian Open.
It is a period of adjustment for the two-time Slam champion. After splitting with her long time coach David Kotyza in February, Kvitova few solo before teaming up with former Czech doubles player Frantisek Cermak who, she told press in Stuttgart was not going to be bringing in wide sweeping changes, but perhaps the time is right to analyse what is needed to combat the aggressive free-swinging pace of scramblers like Gavrilova.
It had been a competitive first set, but the Aussie piled the pressure on at the end of the first set, forcing Kvitova to save three break points before she succumbed to the break. From that point on everything seemed to deteriorate pretty rapidly.
Three successive breaks and her inability to take either of the three break points she dredged up on Gavrilova’s serve left the Aussie just a nudge ahead. Although Kvitova managed to stave off a couple more chances for Gavrilova, the gap was too hard to close.
Kvitova said: “I think she really played a solid match today. I just feel that I couldn’t really put everything today. I was dealing with my stomach pain from Stuttgart, so I didn’t practice for a week and I was just trying to manage it somehow without the practice. I’m glad that I won two matches and I’m glad the pain is not as bad as it was after Stuttgart, so it’s on the good way now.”
Gavrilova knew she had to be aggressive from the off, and it showed from the start of the match, as she explained:
“I thought I served pretty good. I took my chances whenever I could. The match was really on her racquet. She plays well, there’s nothing I can do, but whenever I had a chance to do something to hurt her I did it so that’s why I won.”
Victoria Azarenka Withdraws
The collapse of the top half of the draw was complete just a few moments after talking with Kvitova, as fourth seed Azarenka pulled out after failing to recover from a back injury sustained at the start of the tournament.
She said: “Unfortunately in my first match I think I tweaked my back a little bit. It was really cold, and, I don’t know, I think it’s much easier to get a little bit hurt when it’s that cold.
“And the second match obviously I was in a lot of discomfort. Having a day off I thought it was going to get better. Today before my tennis warm-up it did feel better, but once I started hitting it came back.
“I don’t feel that I’m able to compete today. Just trying to make smart decision for a big picture.”
Her plan is now to take things day by day and see if she can be ready to play Rome.
Simona Halep def. Timea Bacsinszky 6-2 6-3
After an amazing turnaround in Miami by the Swiss, Halep joked that she would want a little revenge in her match, and she got it with a commanding performance to book her place in the quarter-finals. With the withdrawal of Azarenka, Halep is now the top seed, but today the key for her was playing without pressure and adding a lot more creativity.
She said, after the match: “I change the tactic. I played less power today and I just tried to mixed the game, to be more creative on court, and to open the court better, to play more on her forehand. So I did a good job, and I think I adjusted very well my game to her game.”
She will face compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu, in a tournament where the Romanians have ruled the roost, with four in action today and a guaranteed semi-final spot in the top half of the draw.
“I expect a tough match. She plays well on clay. I think last year she did quarterfinals here, so means that she likes the court.
“I know her pretty well, since long time ago, but official we didn’t play too many matches. It’s a big challenge for me tomorrow. I just want to repeat my memories from 2014 and that’s it. I expect a tough one. I expect that I have the chance to win.
“But the match is open, so I have just to try to get my chance and to fight for it, because I really want to go through.”
The final seed, Carla Suarez Navarro, who had been suffering with a cold and upset stomach, hung on for a three setter but was ultimately ousted by Sam Stosur, leaving Halep in pole position now for a run to the title.
Play continues at the Mutua Madrid open on Thursday at 12pm (11am BST).
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