Battling for nearly three hours under the Carlsbad sun, Christina McHale finally found her tenacity rewarded as she edged past a player of almost equal persistence in Misaki Doi. A relatively unknown qualifier when the week began, Doi subjected the favorite to relentless pressure on serve through the first two sets, earning eleven break points in the first set alone. But the Japanese journeywoman converted just three of her nineteen chances overall, the defining statistic of an encounter in which McHale survived rather than dazzled. On Wednesday night, Bartoli did much the same, so their quarterfinal under the lights on Friday should oppose a pair of prizefighters bloodied but unbowed.
Far from bloodied on Thursday was Urszula Radwanska, who crushed Melanie Oudin a round after a convincing performance against Hantuchova. The younger Radwanska now has reached the quarterfinals or better at her last three non-majors, seemingly emerging from nowhere to showcase the talents that had not translated from juniors to the professional level until now. With two more victories, Carlsbad could feature a Radwanska in its final for the third straight year. (Defending champion Agnieszka wisely spurned the event in favor of preparing for an Olympics where she could fare well.) For Oudin, though, who had struggled to win any main-draw matches until a few months ago, the previous three-set win over Sloane Stephens represented another step forward.
Due to meet the younger Radwanska on Friday, Cibulkova continued to move smoothly through the draw as she dismissed the occasionally tricky Erakovic. Cibulkova has exhibited impressive form in North America before, advancing deep into Miami and the US Open while reaching her most notable final to date at the Rogers Cup.
For the second straight evening, an epic involving a top-four seed supplanted aesthetic quality with suspense. Even in her decline, Jankovic continues to produce some of the WTA’s most sprawling, melodramatic affairs, and this three-set encounter with lefty Melinda Czink proved no exception. The Hungarian found plenty of “chinks” in the Serb’s armor, earning no fewer than 24 break points, but the Serb echoed McHale in rallying from a one-set deficit and earning a crucial break in the ninth game of the second set. An expert at reversing momentum, she faces the challenge of revitalizing her energies before a relatively early meeting on Friday with Chan, who has looked sharper than her sub-100 ranking this week.
After four days, the modest Carlsbad draw has produced as much intrigue and entertainment as anyone could have expected. As the weekend arrives, the impending matches will showcase an array of personalities and playing styles, so the event still could shine despite the absence of glitter.