French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza is looking to rediscover the form that lead her to win her maiden Grand Slam singles title. Despite winning a Grand Slam singles title in 2016, it was an underwhelming campaign for the seventh seed. Muguruza only reached three semifinals or better last year, and second round exits at Wimbledon and the US Open were poor results for a player of her caliber. However, 2017 has slightly been better for the former world number two. Muguruza reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in Melbourne for the first time and the semifinals in Brisbane at the start of the year. The seventh seed lost in her first round match last year to Christina McHale but gaining two wins under her belt this year will do her a world of good.
Muguruza's chances of reaching the quarterfinals will be tricky. The French Open champion will be up against, the in-form tenth seeded Ukranian Elina Svitolina. Svitolina parted ways with her long-time coach Iain Hughes towards the end of the 2016 season. Seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin joined her coaching team in 2016 to overlook her progress. Svitolina began 2017 losing to eventual champion Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals of Brisbane. She suffered a disappointing third-round defeat to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Melbourne but bounced back in style. The Ukranian broke into the top 10 for the first time this year, and she is currently on a 13-match winning streak after winning back-to-back titles in Taiwan and Dubai.
Muguruza's route to the fourth round
The seventh seed received a bye in the first round but she was dealt with a tough second round draw against 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens. The Belgian isn't the player, she once was back in 2013 but she is still a formidable opponent and is capable of beating the top players. Nevertheless, Muguruza came through that match unscathed, dispatching the former world number 13, 6-2, 6-3. In the third round, the Spaniard survived an almighty scare against American wildcard Kayla Day. The 17-year-old upset 32nd seed and Australian Open semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the previous round. Moreover, the French Open champion weathered the storm, recovering from a set down to defeat Day by virtue of a double fault, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, advancing to the fourth round in the Californian Desert for the second time, and first appearance at this stage since her debut in 2013.
Svitolina's route to the fourth round
Svitolina like Muguruza faced adversity but she portrayed her fighting qualities which have taken her to the top ten and a winning streak. The tenth seed also benefitted from a first round bye but she needed a final set tiebreak to defeat China's Qiang Wang, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3). In the third round, the in-form Ukranian was up against former doubles partner and 24th seed Daria Gavrilova. Despite going an early break down in the opening set, Svitolina eased past the 23-year-old, 6-2, 6-1. It will be the world number 10's second fourth round appearance in three years.
Muguruza and Svitolina have met on four occasions, and they are evenly poised at two wins apiece. The duo has met on all three surfaces with the Spaniard leading 1-0 on clay, 1-0 on grass but Svitolina leads 2-0 on hard courts which are relevant in the context of this fourth round matchup.
The duo's first meeting was in in the second round qualifying match at the French Open in 2012. The future French Open champion came out on top defeating Svitolina, 6-1, 7-5 but failed to win her final match to qualify for the event. Once again the duo would meet in a qualifying match with Muguruza defeating Svitolina, 6-3, 6-0 at Wimbledon in 2012. Last year, Svitolina defeated Muguruza in Dubai, 7-6(3), 6-3 and in the quarterfinals in the Japanese capital of Tokyo in three sets.
Who reaches the quarterfinals?
Both players have shown frailties but have come through tough matches and both have had easy wins to reach this stage of the competition. However, Muguruza needs to be reaching the latter stages of big tournaments more frequently. The former world number two has the tools and the game to win majors on all three surfaces but needs to do it consistently. Moreover, Muguruza has a big serve and her backhand is a ferocious weapon when it is firing on all cylinders. In her own right, the Spaniard's movement is the still weakest aspect of her game but it has improved slightly.
Svitolina is similar to Muguruza, she is a good clay court player with her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance occurring at the French Open in 2015. The 10th seed has a good serve and movement around the court. The Ukraine native will need to get Muguruza in uncomfortable positions and to try to target her forehand which is still strong but not as a good as her backhand.
This is a good opportunity for both players to have a good run in this tournament as former two-time champion Serena Williams and defending champion Victoria Azarenka are absent from this year's event. The winner of this match will face third seed Karolina Pliskova or 15th seed Timea Bacsinskzy in the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Muguruza in three sets