A defeat for defending champion Petra Kvitova and a late withdrawal from Victoria Azarenka were just some of the highlights from another jam-packed day at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Fourth seed Azarenka drew headlines after pulling out of her third-round meeting with Louisa Chirico because of a back injury.
With Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza all already eliminated, Azarenka was the highest seed remaining in the tournament, but after aggravating a lower back injury during morning practice she decided to adopt a cautious approach and withdraw.
“Unfortunately in my first match I think I tweaked my back a little bit. It was really cold, and, I don’t know, I think it’s much easier to get a little bit hurt when it’s that cold,” Azarenka said during a press conference. “And the second match obviously I was in a lot of discomfort. Having a day off I thought it was going to get better. Today before my warm-up it did feel better, but once I started hitting it came back.
“I don’t feel that I’m able to compete today. I’m just trying to make the smart decision and see the big picture.”
Meanwhile, on the court, Kvitova became the 12th seed to be sent packing as she went down 6-3, 6-4 to Daria Gavrilova.
Kvitova was often her own worst enemy during the match, and grew increasingly frustrated as she gifted her opponent important points due to unforced errors.
“I think Daria really played a solid match. I couldn’t put everything together out there – I was still dealing with the pain from Stuttgart,” Kvitova said. “I couldn’t really practice for a week. I’m glad that I won two matches and I’m glad that it feels like it’s getting better, so hopefully I can start to do more fitness and tennis practice.”
Also getting eliminated was eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro, who was on the receiving end of a spirited comeback from Sam Stosur.
The Australian battled back from a set down to prevail 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The carnage amongst the top seeds means Simona Halep is the only top 10 player left in the draw, and the Romanian booked her place in the quarter-finals with an impressive 6-2, 6-3 victory over Timea Bacsinszky in under and hour.
Halep hasn’t been in top form so far this season, but has been steadily improving and getting back to something like her best.
She was able to to gain revenge on Bacsinszky for a defeat inflicted upon her in the quarter-finals in Miami.
Asked how she managed to turn it around against the Swiss player, Halep said: “I like more to play on clay.
“I changed tactics. I played less power today and I just tried to mix up the game, to be more creative on court, and to open the court better, to play more on her forehand.
“So I did a good job, and I think I adjusted my game very well to hers.”
Halep moves on to face her countrywoman Irina-Camelia Begu for a place in the semi-finals, while others to advance on the day included Sorana Cirstea and Domonika Cibulkova.