MIAMI, FL, USA - No.6 seed Jelena Ostapenko treated an enthusiastic Grandstand crowd to a tense ending in her Miami Open third round, taking out Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia, 6-2, 7-6(2) to advance into the Round of 16 for the first time in Crandon Park.
"I was very focused in the tie-break, playing at a high level for those seven or nine points," Ostapenko said. "It was good how I finished the match."
The reigning Roland Garros champion appeared on course for a seamless victory as she inched close to a set and double break lead, but Haddad Maia had other ideas.
"I started really well in the match, and I was playing well, but there were some key points, like when I was up 3-1, 30-0 on her serve, I lost some confidence," Ostapenko explained during her on-court interview.
Bouyed by a supportive crowd, the Brazilian leveled the set and forced Ostapenko to twice serve to avoid a deciding set, ultimately forcing a tie-break. Ostapenko rallied from 0-2 in the sudden death to win the final seven points and wrap up the win in 90 minutes.
"In the tie-break, I showed my great tennis, and I won the match. I'm really glad it happened that way."
The battle with Haddad Maia was a rematch of the KEB Hana Bank • Incheon Airport Korea Open, which Ostapenko won to capture her first hardcourt title - and second career singles title after the French Open - and employed her signature aggression throughout, striking 17 winners to Haddad Maia's five, and remained more consistent when it counted, hitting seven fewer unforced errors than her opponent (25 to 32).
"I'm trying and working very hard," she said, having hired Samantha Stosur's longtime coach coach David Taylor over the off-season. "It was a tough year in the beginning because I was in the Top 10 so there weren't too many easy matches. But I'm working harder every day, I'm very motivated, and I think I'm getting better.
"I've been trying to work more on my consistency in practice, to have longer rallies," she added after the match. "I think that helped me today."
Ostapenko aims for her second WTA quarterfinal of 2018, but will need to get past Petra Kvitova to do it. Kvitova beat the Latvian in the last eight of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy earlier this year, and the World No.5 revealed she may watch some of Sunday night's clash between the two-time Wimbledon champion and Kenin on Stadium Court.
"I actually watch some videos of my opponents to have an idea of how they play. Most them I know, but I want to be sure my plan will work in the match!"