MIAMI, FL, USA - Kirsten Flipkens carved out a three set win over Ajla Tomljanovic in the fourth round of the Sony Open Tennis on Monday to not only reach her first Premier-level quarterfinal, but her first Premier Mandatory-level quarterfinal. Up next for the Belgian is World No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska.
After losing a lengthy 52-minute first set in a tie-break, the No.30-seeded Flipkens went right to the grind, breaking early in the next two sets and finally outlasting the Croatian wildcard, 67(6) 64 63.
"Tomljanovic made a really good start - the first set was so close, but she was really on fire and I had to find solutions," Flipkens said after the match. "In the second set I played a little bit more aggressive, made her move more and just played my game - looking back, I think I won the second set mentally.
"I think I won the third set with a combination of physical, mental and experience, I think."
Tomljanovic had never won back-to-back matches at the WTA main draw level before, but won three in a row this past week for her best ever result. "She's only 19 years old and such a great talent," Flipkens said. "She has a good serve and really big groundstrokes - she has a lot of potential, for sure."
Flipkens had reached 13 WTA quarterfinals before but they were all at the International level - in her 14th, which is her first at the Premier level, she will do battle with the No.4-seeded Radwanska.
"I'm so happy to be in the quarterfinals," Flipkens said. "I will really enjoy every moment of it."
Radwanska, also the defending champion in Miami, followed Flipkens into the final eight with a 46 62 60 win over No.16 seed Sloane Stephens. Radwanska won nine games in a row from 46 32, and looked in total control for most of that run - she faced game point in only one of the last eight games.
"I think I was a bit tight in the first set, just too defensive, and she really started very well," Radwanska said in her post-match presser. "But then after the first set I started to play much better, point by point, and it got better and better until the end. I really started playing more aggressively after the first set.
"Sloane is a very good, young player, and she's always difficult to play against. I remember our match from last summer, I won 6-4 in the third, so I knew it wouldn't be an easy match today."
"I played well at the beginning, but she raised her level and played some pretty good tennis," Stephens said. "I definitely felt I should have held serve at 3-2 in the second set, but it didn't happen and it is what it is. You can always take something from it and just move forward and try to get better."
Radwanska beat Flipkens in their only previous meeting, though it was three years ago when neither player was really anywhere near the level they're at now - Radwanska was No.9, Flipkens No.81.
"Definitely she has had a really good couple of months right now, playing really good tennis and beating some good players," Radwanska said. "This is the quarterfinals. I really have to play 100% to win that match. She plays a bit different tennis than the other players I'm playing, so we'll see."