Petra Kvitova may not yet be back to her Grand Slam-winning best but the Czech 13th seed will pose the biggest test of Garbiñe Muguruza’s title chances at the US Open when the world number three takes to the court on Sunday evening at Flushing Meadows.
Kvitova, a double Wimbledon champion, was out of action for five months after suffering a serious injury to her left hand when she was stabbed at her home fending off a knife-wielding intruder and made her return to the WTA Tour at the French Open in May.
She has made steady progress since then and her confidence is growing. "I'm still working on the strength, I think, which is still missing," she said. "I do feel much better and closer to my top level."
Even if she holds a 2-1 career record against the pre-tournament favourite Muguruza, that might not be enough for the 13th seed to beat the two-time grand slam champion Spaniard, who has only dropped nine games in her first three matches in New York.
Muguruza won the title in Cincinnati before the US Open and is on an eight-match winning streak having never before been past the second round at the final Grand Slam of the season.
The winner will go on to play either Carla Suárez Navarro or Venus Williams in the last eight.
3-Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain)
The Spaniard has produced some of her career's finest displays over the last couple of months to lift the Wimbledon and Cincinnati titles.
The 2016 French Open winner has made an effort to adapt on all surfaces this season, which has been key to her rise to number three in the world rankings.
Muguruza is yet to drop a set at Flushing Meadows this year and the 23-year-old's ability to raise her game against the top opponents makes her the favourite ahead of a much-anticipated match against Kvitova.
13-Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
Playing in only her eighth tournament this year, Kvitova could be short of match practice but not confidence at the US Open.
The Czech claimed the Birmingham title in June but has since struggled to go deep in the tournaments, including her pre-U.S. Open appearances at Stanford, Toronto, Cincinnati and New Haven
Beijing 2016, hard court. Round of 16 – Kvitova d Muguruza 6-1, 6-4
Stuttgart 2016, clay. Quarterfinal – Kvitova d Muguruza 6-1, 3-6, 6-0
WTA Championships 2015, hard. Round robin – Muguruza d Kvitova 6-4, 4-6, 7-5