INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - In a rollercoaster encounter, two-time Grand Slam champion and No.10 seed Angelique Kerber ended Elena Vesnina's reign as BNP Paribas Open champion on Monday afternoon with a 7-5, 6-2 third round victory.
Kerber won the first four games of the match to seemingly stamp her authority on the No.24 seed, but Vesnina won the next five games and served for a one-set edge.
Nonetheless, the Russian was unable to build herself a set point, and Kerber won the final three games - saving break points at 5-5 and coming through a marathon battle to get the clinching break - to steal a one-set lead.
"She started playing much more aggressive and much better. I lost a little bit of my quality in my game, and then it was 4-5," Kerber said of the first set.
"I know that...every single match, every single point against her, [I have to play] my best tennis, because she is always trying to come back. In the second set it was 6-2, but it was very close, every single game. I was trying to stay in the match, and I think 5-5 was really important."
The German also sprinted out to an early lead in the second set, as she won the first three games and three of the last four to set a date with Caroline Garcia in the last 16.
After a well-documented disappointing 2017 after winning two Grand Slams the previous season, Kerber improved to 17-3 in 2018 so far with Monday's victory, and has not lost before the quarterfinals in any tournament thus far.
"I'm just focusing on every single match and every single day. From the first day when I arrive to just playing good during the practices, and then also going out there and showing good tennis like I can play and like I played the last years," Kerber said.
"This is actually my goal now. I'm not thinking too much ahead, not thinking or looking back. I'm just trying to being here now. I'm not looking on 2017 anymore. It's over, and I learned a lot. I learned a lot of positive things also during 2017, and I think it made me a better person and better player."
Kerber leads the head-to-head against Garcia, 3-2, but lost the last match the two played at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open at the end of last season. Garcia rallied from a set down for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 first-round victory en route to winning the title.
"I think it will be another good match. I mean, it's the fourth round, and she serves good. I saw a little bit of first set from the match today," Kerber assessed.
"I know what to expect. I played against her at the end of last year. It's another quite big match for me, and I will go out there, try to play like I played the last weeks and try to enjoying the next match."