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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, July 10, 2017

A blockbuster clash between Wimbledon finalists fulfilled its heavy-hitting hype.

Garbiñe Muguruza was a fighter to the finish.

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The 14th-seeded Muguruza fought off 2016 Wimbledon finalist Angelique Kerber, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals and end Kerber's reign as world No. 1.

In a rematch of the 2015 Wimbledon third round, which Muguruza won in three sets, the powerful Spaniard hit bold strikes beating Kerber for the fifth straight time, seizing a 5-3 lead I their head-to-head series.

"I think was a good match," said Muguruza. "I know I won it, but I think was a good match for both of us. You know, we battle out there. Every point we give our best. Every match that I play against Kerber is like that. I remember two years ago when we played here, was a quite similar match.

"Happy that it went my way, of course, after fighting there for two hours."

The 2015 Wimbledon finalist advanced to her second quarterfinal in the last three years.

Muguruza plastered 55 winners—doubling the left-handed German’s total of 27 winners—in a tense drama in which both women won precisely 101 points.

The top-seeded Kerber needed to reach the Wimbledon final to have a chance of retaining her world No. 1 ranking.

World No. 2 Simona Halep, who plays former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the round of 16, can surpass Kerber as the new No. 1 if she reaches the semifinals.

Deadlocked at deuce 3-all in the deciding set, Muguruza blasted a backhand down the line to end a 21-shot rally. The 2016 Roland Garros champion fought off a break point earning a hard-fought hold for 4-3.

Both women unloaded stinging strikes down the line as pressure and intensity escalated in the final set.

Serving at 4-5, Kerber saved two match points, including leaning low to crank a crosscourt backhand winner.

On her third match point, Muguruza hit a deep drive backing Kerber up. The two-time Grand Slam champion’s backhand found the net ending a high-quality two hour, 18-minute clash.

Muguruza will meet seventh-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova for a semifinal spot in a clash of former Roland Garros champions.

"I look forward for the match," Muguruza said. "We played this year at the beginning. All the matches that I play against her, they're tough. We practice a lot of times in Spain together.

"I think if she's here, she's playing great. I think today she did good. So, yeah, expecting a difficult match."

The two-time Grand Slam champion turned back 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-4. Kuznetsova did not drop serve in an 89-minute conquest that sent her into her first Wimbledon quarterfinal in a decade.

The 23-year-old Muguruza has won three consecutive matches against Kuznetsova, including a 7-5, 6-4 victory in Brisbane in January, and holds a 3-1 lead in their head-to-head series.

"(Kuznetsova) has kind of a Spanish style," Muguruza said. "I don't know. But I like the way she plays. She's very talented and very nice shots.

"She trains a lot in Spain. She has a very good forehand, nice serve as well. I don't know. It's details that makes it like styles and stuff."

The 14th-seeded Muguruza is playing The Championships without coach Sam Sumyk, who didn't make the trip to London, at her side. Instead, Spanish Fed Cup captain Conchita Martinez, who has worked with Muguruza in practice previously, is handling coaching duties during the fortnight.

Muguruza said hearing 1994 Wimbledon champion Martinez's advice has been "a nice change." 

"It has been different, of course," Muguruza said. "When you go to a Grand Slam, you always want to have your full team, because it's very important. But every time I play Fed Cup, I always bring Sam, and Conchita is there. They kind of connect very well. They are always in contact.

"It feels nice to have, you know, a face that I know there. Obviously she can give me a lot of tips when I go out there. So, yeah, I think it's a nice change."


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