After two spectacular performances in the first two rounds, the second highest seed remaining in the draw Petra Kvitova will face the toughest opponent of her Mutua Madrid Open campaign thus far, Aussie Daria Gavrilova. The winner will secure a lucrative spot in the last eight.
World number 39 Daria Gavrilova began 2016 on a high note by representing her new home Australia in the Hopman Cup alongside Nick Kyrgios, and the duo went on to win the title. She then carried this momentum into the Australian Open by reaching the round of 16. She then suffered a hiccup by failing to win back-to-back matches in four of her next six tournaments.
Entering Madrid, Gavrilova was scheduled to play Yulia Putintseva who then had to withdraw with a respiratory illness. She had no problems beating lucky loser Heather Watson and then scored her best win in more than three months by upsetting 12th seed Elina Svitolina. Both matches were won by the Aussie in straight sets.
Kvitova has been spot-on in her first two matches in Madrid, dispatching Lara Arruabarrena and Elena Vesnina with a combined loss of just eleven games. With her title defence off to a good start, she will look to assert her dominance in the Spanish capital, she is the only former champion remaining in the draw.
In her last tournament, Stuttgart alongside Madrid, she has won more matches than the month of January and February combined. Having finally looked to have rediscovered her form, a good showing in the Spanish capital and ultimately a successful title defence is definitely on Kvitova's mind.
The Czech and Australian are tied at one-all in their career meetings. The first took place in Wuhan last year, where Kvitova was given a run for her money, eventually coming out as the winner in three tight sets. In January, Gavrilova sent an out-of-sorts Kvitova packing in the second round of the Australian Open in straight sets.
Gavrilova is not hesitant to cause an upset and will go for it. Victories over Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Lucie Safarova in 2015 show for this. This is the first time the Aussie is playing in Madrid and her results so far indicate that the conditions should be to her liking. Going up against the two-time Wimbledon champion for the third time in nine months, Gavrilova will look to summon all her courage and relish memories of her win over the Czech in Melbourne while countering the heavy groundstrokes coming her opponent's racket.
This will be the defending champion's biggest test entering the quarterfinals. She has played commendable tennis in her first two rounds and if she replicates that similar streak, more particularly in the winners department, another routine win does not seem far-fetched for Kvitova. A hungry-for-revenge Kvitova should waste no time seeing off her opponent and taking the lead in their head-to-head along with a quarterfinal berth.
Prediction: Petra Kvitova in straight sets