Three-time Mutua Madrid Open winner Petra Kvitova passed a formidable test posed by in-form Veronika Kudermetova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, to book an all-star quarterfinal against either world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty.
"I would say whole match I was, not relaxed, but calm I would say," Kvitova said after the match. "That's how I managed to bring it to the win. I think it was the main thing which I did really well. That's bring me the win."
The No. 9 seed gamely recovered from a second-set hiccup to overcome the surging Russian in just over two hours on Manolo Santana Stadium.
"If you are playing with somebody like Veronika, she's really serving very well, she couldn't miss. I felt like she was not really missing. That's, of course, very good for the confidence. So I would love to take that with me for the next rounds."
Kvitova captured her first Madrid crown in 2011, and has become a perennial threat at the Caja Mágica with subsequent victories in 2015 and 2018. She started the new season with early losses in Australia, but two-time Wimbledon champion rounded into form at the Qatar Total Open, where she won her 28th career title, and knocked out former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber en route to the third round this week.
"It's been challenging from the first rounds. I feel like I'm not seeded player, but actually I am. That's still very tough. Veronika was really in the fire. Since she won the Charleston, she's playing great. She will be big champion. Not easy matches."
Kudermetova has become a consistent force in the months following the COVID-19 lockdown, scoring her first Top 3 win over Karolina Pliskova at the Western & Southern Open and began 2021 with runs to the Abu Dhabi and Charleston final, winning the latter on green clay.
Despite dethroning 2019 champion Kiki Bertens earlier in the week, the 24-year-old nonetheless found herself at the mercy of Kvitova’s laser-like precision early in Monday’s encounter. Taking on Kudermetova for the first time, the Czech was clearly ready for a battle as she raced through the first three games and ultimately swept the first set with 12 winners.
The second set proved tougher for Kvitova, particularly when it came time to break Kudermetova, who trails only Ashleigh Barty among 2021’s Ace Leaders. Saving a break point in the third game, the Russian fended off two more in the crucial ninth game—one that could have helped Kvitova serve out the match.
Kudermetova gained a second wind from that near-miss and capitalized on a pair of forehand errors to turn the tables on Kvitova and level the match.
On the brink of losing a fourth straight game, Kvitova stepped up to save a break point of her own and reclaim the momentum to win the next three games.
Kvitova continued to hold on even as Kudermetova threatened to even the decider with two more break point chances, and held off one last stand to reverse a 0-30 deficit in the final game to secure her spot in the last eight.
"Definitely it was a tough one. I felt like it's a bit like a men match today, about serving a lot. It was just the one break in each set.
"I'm really glad I managed most of it mentally because it was pretty tough, especially in the third set when I have 40-15 down, 0-30 in the last game. So I'm really glad that the serve helped me in the end. I'm glad how we played, for sure. It was very nice tennis."
In a match that came down to razor-thin margins, Kvitova largely canceled out 34 unforced errors with 29 winners and and created more openings on return, converting two of seven break chances to Kudermetova's one of four.
Up next, she will face Barty after the Aussie won a battle between the last two French Open champions against Iga Swiatek.
"She has a game for clay very well. She's sliding. She's playing lots of slice and everything. Of course it's about the few points. I mean, of course she likes clay a little bit more than me probably. I like Madrid. So who knows, right?"
Kvitova leads Barty, 5-4 in their head-to-head after winning their most recent meeting at the 2020 Qatar Total Open.
"I mean, I'm really looking forward. Always playing Ash, it's great challenge. It will be great matchup. I really will enjoy it. I'm really looking forward for it."