After a first round bye, 2015 Wimbledon finalist Garbiñe Muguruza impressed in her opening match against Timea Babos by overpowering the Hungarian to make her first quarterfinal at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. She faces two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova who is in her first Stuttgart quarterfinal since 2013.
Muguruza who is the higher ranked player has been rather up-and-down in 2016. Her best results so far were a quarterfinal appearance in Doha and a round of 16 showing in Miami. Other than that, she was flawless in all the Fed Cup rubbers she had played, winning all four in straight sets.
However, she bowed out of the Australian Open along with Dubai and Indian Wells in the early rounds, the latter two winless. In the previous round, she and Babos clashed for the second time this year but Muguruza was more dominant this time around, losing just four games compared to seven in their first encounter.
Southpaw Kvitova produced two polar results in her first and second round matches in Stuttgart against Louisa Chirico and Monica Niculescu respectively. While she routinely closed out the former match with a double bagel, she was forced to dig deep to come out on top in the latter against Romanian Niculescu, in three roller-coaster sets. Niculescu had three match points to upset the Czech but could not convert any of them. This win sends Kvitova into her second quarterfinal of the year and her third in this tournament.
This will be a rematch of their WTA Finals round robin encounter last year which Muguruza won 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. Kvitova came close to beating the Spaniard in that particular match but was broken back while trying to serve out the match up 5-4 in the decider. Muguruza then dominated the last two games as Kvitova faded away.
That win capped off Muguruza's perfect 3-0 record in the round-robin stage but she could not carry on this result to the semifinal where she crashed out to eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska. Kvitova did make the semifinals where she produced a brilliant performance to see off Maria Sharapova but had nothing much left in the tank in the final against Radwanska.
With the tournament played indoors, the conditions definitely favour both players where they will be able to execute their powerful shots more precisely without any influence of the weather. Kvitova's powerful game suits the faster surfaces of hard and grass. However, she did win two titles at the Premier Mandatory-level Mutua Madrid Open (2011 and 2015) which remain her trophies on clay to date. She will be pleased as well to have finally made her first Stuttgart quarterfinal in three attempts after leaving the tournament the last two years winless.
Kvitova is also the more powerful of the two and can outhit her Spanish opponent on her day but it would require utmost consistency. Moreover, she has played more matches here than Muguruza and arrived in Stuttgart earlier, hence more time to acclimatise to the conditions. Additionally, she would want to employ the serve-and-volley tactic and trouble her opponent once again like how she did in the previous round.
Although Muguruza selects hard as her favourite surface, she is in fact comfortable on every surface. This is accounted by two French Open (played on clay) quarterfinals and last year's run to the Wimbledon (played on grass) final where she finished second best to Serena Williams. The big-hitting Spaniard also calls clay courts 'her territory' which does not come as a surprise given its a prosperous surface for the Spanish players.
As mentioned above, Muguruza definitely has the upper hand surface-wise. It is also worth noting that her last two Fed Cup rubbers against Italy came on clay. She was confident in her opening match and will seek to replicate that similar form here. The Spaniard, the more stable of the two as well and played her last match two days ago, therefore having an extra day to prepare for this match.
Contrarily, Kvitova who endured a physically-demanding match against Niculescu was clearly tanked out after the match and could have fatigue spells entering this encounter. It could also work the other way round for the lefty, giving her renewed confidence and belief having saved multiple match points to earn her spot in this match-up.
Ultimately, a fresh and ready Muguruza should overpower Kvitova easily in this match and sail into the semifinals where an all-Spanish clash with Carla Suarez Navarro is in the cards.
Prediction: Garbiñe Muguruza in straight sets