WTA Indian Wells quarterfinal preview: Karolina Pliskova vs Garbiñe Muguruza

Last year's US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova is continuing her good run of form into 2017. The third-seeded Czech has already gas two title under belts at the Premier-level events in Brisbane and Doha. Pliskova backed up the run to the US Open final by reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. Although she hasn't been at her best this week, mentally she has shown that she has a big player's mentally. Especially with David Kotyza, the mastermind behind her good form, can elevate Pliskova to new heights, and potentially winning a Grand Slam in 2017.

On the other side of the net to Pliskova in this quarterfinal encounter will be seventh seed Garbiñe Muguruza. The reigning French Open champion has also had a good start to 2017 like Pliskova. The Spaniard reached her first Australian Open quarterfinal but she was completely outplayed by Coco Vandeweghe. She hasn't been at her best this week but once again, Muguruza is hanging in there, slugging it out which she failed to do on numerous occasions in 2016.

Pliskova's route to the quarterfinals

The third seed has been elevated to the top of the draw following the withdrawal of reigning Australian Open champion Serena Williams. The lanky-Czech received a bye into the second round as one of the seeded players in this event. However, she had a tough second round encounter with Olympic gold medal winner Monica Puig. Pliskova recovered from a set down to dispatch the Puerto Rican, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. Another difficult match was to follow for last year's semifinalist with 29th seed Irina-Camelia Begu. It was a close encounter with Pliskova winning the big points at crucial moments, however, she saved two set points in the second set. Nevertheless, the third seed would have been pleased to have not gone to a final set, securing a fourth round berth with a 6-4, 7-6 (2) victory. Unfortunately in her fourth round encounter with 15th seed Timea Bacsinszky, the Swiss number one suffered from a wrist injury. Pliskova lead 5-1 and Bacsinszky was forced to retire, leaving the court in tears, advancing to the quarterfinals for the second successive year.

The Czech is looking for a second successive semifinal berth in Indian Wells (Photo by Harry How / Getty Images)
The Czech is looking for a second successive semifinal berth in Indian Wells (Photo by Harry How / Getty Images)

Muguruza's route to the quarterfinals

The French Open champion and 2015 Wimbledon runner-up began her BNP Paribas Open campaign in the second round against Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens. Flipkens, a former Wimbledon semifinalist upset Muguruza in the inaugural grass court event in Mallorca. However, the Spaniard just won her first Grand Slam singles title, and probably would have not played that week, had that event not been in Spain. Moreover, it was a different story this time as a clinical Muguruza dispatched the former top 15 player, 6-2, 6-3. In the third round, American wildcard Kayla Day caused the Spaniard an almighty scare. The seventh seed hung in there, and defeated Day, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the fourth round for the first time since her debut in 2013. No matter how well Muguruza seems to be playing, she does things the hard way. In her fourth round match with 10th seed Elina Svitolina, the French Open winner sailed to a 5-2 lead, however, she would lose the next four consecutive games with the Ukranian serving for the set. The Spaniard broke and won the tiebreaker, dropped the second set and raced past the final set, 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-0 snapping Svitolina's 15-match winning streak and advancing to her first quarterfinals at the first Premier Mandatory event of the year.

Their history

Pliskova and Muguruza have met on five occassions with the Czech leading 4-1 in their head-to-head meetings. The seventh seed won their first encounter in the first round of the French Open in 2013, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Since then, Pliskova has won the next five consecutive meetings all on hard courts dropping two sets in total.

Muguruza will need to serve well and remain consistent in order to beat Pliskova (Photo by Harry How / Getty Images)
Muguruza will need to serve well and remain consistent in order to beat Pliskova (Photo by Harry How / Getty Images)

The Czech dispatched Muguruza in the semifinals in Dubai in 2015 which was a three-set thriller with Pliskova clinching it 6-4, 5-7, 7-5. They met a few weeks later in the third round, right here in Indian Wells and it was a 7-5, 6-4 victory for the US Open finalist. They met on two occasions in 2016 in the semifinals of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati which Pliskova went on to win. She thrashed the Spaniard, 6-1, 6-3, and at the WTA Finals in Singapore, another close three-setter. Pliskova came out on top, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-5. For the fifth successive match in a row on hard courts, Pliskova defeated Muguruza in a Fed Cup tie, 6-2, 6-2.

Who reaches the semifinals?

This is a good opportunity for both players to win this tournament. In fact, all eight players in the quarterfinals are capable of winning this event, it's that wide open. 2011 champion and 13th seed Caroline Wozniacki is the remaining former champion left in the draw. All eight of the remaining players left in the tournament have reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam or better.

In this quarterfinal encounter, Pliskova will need to serve well, likewise will Muguruza. The Spaniard's backhand has been scintillating this week, and if she can continue to be devastating with it, she could take out Pliskova. It's a close match to call as both players are evenly matched, however, Pliskova is more consistent on her serve than the Spaniard. Also with the Czech practically having a bye into the quarterfinals, she will feel slightly refreshed than Muguruza, which could work in her favor.

This will be the fifth match scheduled inside Stadium 1 at not before 7pm local time, following the conclusion of the men's singles fourth round match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The winner of this quarterfinal will face the 19th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who also reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne or two-time Grand Slam champion and eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Prediction: Pliskova in straight sets