Ash Barty came through a tough challenge from Shelby Rogers at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston to reach the quarter-finals, but Petra Kvitova and Garbiñe Muguruza, who were seeded to meet there, both bowed out.
I was already feeling some pain in my first match. The switch of hard courts to clay was tough, and in a very short amount of time. I started very well, and all of a sudden I felt a sharp pain in my leg, and it got worse. I didn't want to continue without playing my best tennis. It didn't make sense to me. Garbiñe Muguruza
Barty, the World No 1, got herself past hometown favourite Rogers, 7-6 (3) 4-6 6-4, while Danka Kovinic upset Kvitova, and Muguruza retired with an injury after having bagelled the first set against Yulia Putintseva.
Other winners on Thursday included Ons Jabeur, Coco Gauff, Veronika Kudermetova, Sloane Stephens and Paula Badosa.
Barty had to battle hard to keep her winning streak going, winning her 8th straight match but struggling through a 2-hour 23-minute against the tenacious Rogers to do so.
“Shelby’s an exceptional ball-striker,” Barty said to the press, after her win. “She always makes you work very hard for every single point, every single match, and tonight was no different.”
Barty and Rogers squared off for the 3rd time this year, and their 4th overall, and the Aussie let a service-break lead in the 3rd set slip away before picking up the last 2 games and improving to a 4-0 record against the American.
“It’s strange playing someone so often, kind of, quite close together,” Barty said. “Sometimes it’s the way the draw works, you find yourself playing the same person over and over, and other times you won’t play them for years at a time.”
Very little separated them as they each scored 5 service breaks in the match.
Barty was nearly undone by her 53 unforced errors, but came up with clutch serving in 3 of her last 4 service games to hold on for the win, delivering 10 aces in the process.
Rogers broke in the very first game of the match, but the top seed levelled things at 3-3, and they both held on to the tiebreak, where a Barty forehand winner gave her 3 set points at 6-3.
On the first, a Rogers backhand found the net and Barty had gritted out a one-set lead after an hour of play.
She was twice up a break in the second, at 1-0 and 3-2, but Rogers stormed back with deep, powerful shots, and pushed ahead to lead 5-4.
The American was rewarded for her persistence in the last game of the set, when Barty failed to convert a game point, then fired a series of long miscues to cede it.
In the decider, Barty again took an early 4-2 lead following 2 love service holds, but then let Rogers surge back after double-faulting away a love break for 4-4.
Barty rebounded in the next game, slamming a forehand winner into the corner to break for 5-4, and the World No 1 finished off the battle with an ace on her 2nd match point to move on to the quarters where she will face Spain’s Badosa, a 6-3 6-3 winner over Caty McNally of the US.
Unseeded Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, ranked 91 in the world, toppled two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, the 3rd seed, 6-4, 6-1 to reach the quarters.
“We both have pretty big serves and she’s very good hitting from the baseline,” Kovinic said. “Today it was the key that I tried, and did it really well, to take her pace of the ball and use her energy.
“As you can see, her returns on my second serve were sometimes incredible — I didn’t even move and the ball passed by me, but somehow I managed.”
Kovinic broke twice for a 5-1 lead in the second set, then served out the victory with 4 straight service winners.
In her two prior encounters with the Czech, Kovinic was 2 points away from prevailing, but ultimately lost tough 3-setters at 2016 Indian Wells and Roland Garros.
“I have to say I’m pleased with everything I showed today on the court,” Kovinic said. “It was really my day today.
“I felt really good out there. I think the score says it… this was my revenge today.
“I really like this clay. It’s a bit faster and really suits my game. I like to slide but also like to hit, do topspins. I love this environment.”
Kovinic will play for a place in the semi-finals against Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, who advanced when 6th-seeded Muguruza retired while leading their match 6-0, 2-2 with a left leg injury.
“First of all, she was playing really great tennis since the first point,” said Putintseva afterwards. “I tried to fight back, I tried to do my best, and in the second set I could at least make it to be even.
“But for now I don’t feel like I deserve this, to go through. I wish her a speedy recovery – she’s having a great season.”
The Spaniard fired 10 winners to Putintseva’s 1 in the first set, and mustered a break of serve after a medical time out early in the second before opting to call it a day.
“I was already feeling some pain in my first match,” said Muguruza, a former World No 1, who ended a two-year title drought in Dubai last month.
“The switch of hard courts to clay was tough, and in a very short amount of time.
“I started very well, and all of a sudden I felt a sharp pain in my leg, and it got worse. I didn’t want to continue without playing my best tennis. It didn’t make sense to me.”
Earlier in the day, a pair of Americans booked spots in the quarter-finals, as former champion Sloane Stephens and teenager Coco Gauff earned straight-set victories on Thursday afternoon.
Stephens, who won the title here in 2016, took out Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-3 6-4, firing 17 winners and converting 4 of her 6 break points in her 80-minute victory.
After an 0-4 start to the season, Stephens is demonstrating solid form, which has propelled her into her first quarter-final since 2019 Roland Garros.
Lengthy rallies with tremendous depth filled the opener, and Stephens broke the deadlock by outlasting Tomljanovic in a protracted game to go up 4-3, and dominated the set from there, holding to love for 5-3 and using a divine backhand winner into the corner to break again and close it out.
Tomljanovic grabbed her first break point of the match at 1-1 in the second, and after a wide forehand by Stephens, the powerful Aussie edged ahead.
She held on through 4-3, but Stephens used tremendous angles to fend off a game point for 5-3, then forced errors from Tomljanovic to reach parity again at 4-4.
Stephens took command from there, holding at love for 5-4, then sweeping through a second consecutive service break to wrap up the win.
“I just waited for my opportunities. I was still playing well and trying to show energy,” Stephens said. “It worked out well. I kind of stomped when it was time.”
Stephens will now face No 15 seed Veronika Kudermetova in the quarters, after the Russian also stormed into the elite 8 without dropping a set, which included her latest 6-0 6-3 win over qualifier Kurumi Nara from Japan on Thursday.
The Russian captured the Nara serve in a titanic first game, taking her 5th break point after 9 deuces, but rolled on from there.
Earlier in the day, US teenager Coco Gauff booked a quarter-final meeting with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.
The 17-year-old held off compatriot Lauren Davis, 6-2 7-6 (6), to reach her first tour-level quarter-final on clay, and has now won all 4 matches she has played since Tuesday, earning 3 singles victories and a doubles win with Caty McNally.
“My confidence is definitely super high,” Gauff said, in her post-match press conference. “I feel like each match, I’m doing better and better, and I’m excited to hopefully keep continuing and excited to play the quarterfinal.
Playing in just her third WTA event on the dirt, the World No 36 gritted through a tightly-contested second set to outlast her 79th-ranked compatriot after an hour and a half.
In the first meeting between the two Americans, Gauff had 3 more winners and 9 fewer unforced errors than Davis, and converted 7 of her 9 break points.
“I think it’s just important to just continue to trust my shots and trust my strokes,” Gauff said. “Even if I miss hitting a good shot, those are the misses I want to make.”
“Definitely felt good. The first set, I started off strong, didn’t make too many errors. Was really hitting the ball deep in the court.
”In the second set, she started to play better. I started to step in more on my heavy balls. I changed my game plan, starting to be a little bit more aggressive, but not too much where I was making errors.”
Awaiting is Jabeur, the 12th seed, after the Tunisian rallied past Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet, 5-7 6-3 6-3.
For the second day in a row, Cornet saved multiple set points before fighting back to win an opening set.
On Wednesday, she saved two against No.7 seed Elise Mertens before earning a straight-set upset, and against Jabeur, she erased triple set point at 5-4 before notching the final 3 games of the opening frame.
Jabeur did not let the missed opportunity derail her, and came back from an early break down in the final set to win the last 4 games of the match to reach her long-awaited first WTA quarter-final of the season after having fallen in the round of 16 in 5 of her previous 6 events this year.