MONTERREY, México - Angelique Kerber and Maria Kirilenko - one currently in the Top 10, the other one seemingly headed for the elite - battled past tenacious second round opponents at the Monterrey Open on Thursday night, rounding out the quarterfinal line-up at the International-level tournament.
The No.3-seeded Kirilenko was the first of the two to advance, letting the middle set slip by but rebounding very nicely to beat Serbian qualifier Jovana Jaksic after a lopsided third set, 60 46 61.
"It was a tricky one today," Kirilenko said after the match. "I was playing well, but I didn't keep my concentration today - after the first set I became a little bit too relaxed. But even though it went three sets I'm enjoying my game and had fun out there today. I'm happy that in the end it worked out for me.
"A win is a win - you're always happy just to win the match."
Next up for Kirilenko is No.7 seed Urszula Radwanska. Radwanska leads Kirilenko in their head-to-head series, 2-1, but Kirilenko won their last meeting, and they haven't played for over two years.
"She's a good player and a good competitor, running very well and getting a lot of balls back in the court," Kirilenko said of Radwanska. "It's going to be a good match I think, a really tough match."
The No.1-seeded Kerber was next up in the night session and had a similar experience, dropping the second set but rebounding in the third to get past Russian qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva, 64 46 62.
"I played well in the first set but then she started playing better," Kerber said afterwards. "I was just trying to find my rhythm again in the third set and I'm happy I won the match - that's what counts."
The players both struggled on their serve throughout the match - there were 18 breaks in 28 games - but in the end Kerber's serve was just a bit stronger, as she held six times, Kudryavtseva four.
"I think my serve wasn't so good tonight," Kerber said. "I was broken a lot because I wasn't serving very well, but then on the other hand I tried to focus more on my returns and on my return games, and so I broke her serve many times too. Maybe that's why we had a lot of breaks during tonight's match.
"It wasn't an easy game, but I hope tomorrow will be better."
Next up for Kerber is No.8 seed Ayumi Morita. Kerber and Morita are tied in their head-to-head series, 2-2, though Kerber has prevailed in their last two encounters, and in straight sets no less.
"Every match starts from zero," Kerber said of the Japanese No.1. "I'll prepare to play her just like I do every match and I will give my best out there. I hope to play some good tennis tomorrow."
The only other match of the day saw Lauren Davis grind out an all-American second rounder against Coco Vandeweghe, winning a dramatic second set tie-break to close it out in straights, 64 76(8). Davis missed out on four match points then saved a set point before winning it on match point No.5.
Next up for Davis is No.5 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, which will be a first-time meeting.
The other quarterfinal is an all-unseeded battle between Monica Niculescu and Timea Babos, with Niculescu beating Babos in their only previous meeting, just recently over in Florianopolis.