LINZ, Austria - Margarita Gasparyan scored the first Top 10 win of her career in a three-set stunner to down No.2 seed Kiki Bertens and reach the quarterfinals of the Upper Austria Ladies Linz.
Gasparyan, who has been on a tear since returning to action two months ago after being sidelined for almost two years with multiple knee surgeries. She lifted the first trophy of her comeback a few weeks ago at the Tashkent Open, and backed up that result in epic style, taking out the No.2 seed in a 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(3) thriller.
The win is a big step for Gasparyan, who used a Protected Ranking to enter Tashkent. Now ranked World No.137, every win puts the Russian closer to the WTA Top 100 - a move that could see her enter the main draw at the Australian Open for the first time since 2016.
But for Bertens, defeat in the second round of Linz puts her Singapore hopes in jeopardy. Bertens is one of five players with a chance to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, but she sits 10 points behind Karolina Pliskova in search of the No.8 spot and needed to reach the quarterfinals in order to move ahead of the Czech.
She’ll have another chance to move in front next week at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow - Bertens needs to win at least one match in order to add any points.
Bertens made a strong start against Gasparyan in Linz, leading by a break twice in the rollercoaster opening set - once at 1-0 and again at 3-2. But both players came out swinging, and the Russian never let her opponent run away with it. Finally it Gasparyan who sealed the decisive break, employing her mix of power and variety to frustrate Bertens and close out the set with a break at 7-5.
The Dutch player seemed to find the keys in the second set as Gasparyan’s high level took a dip - she reeled off four games in a row to start with a 4-0 lead, and fought off three break chances to power through and send the match into a decider.
With both players dialled in, the final set featured lengthy baseline rallies between Bertens and Gasparyan. Bertens grabbed the first lead at 1-0, but saw it erased as Gasparyan leveled at 3-3. Bertens will surely rue her missed opportunities in the games that followed: she created six break chances in the next two Gasparyan service games - including a trio at 4-4 that would have had her serving for the match.
But Gasparyan saved them all and the pair marched into a tiebreaker. From there it was all Gasparyan, who reeled off five points in a row to go up 5-1, and held her lead to seal the biggest win of her career after a hard-fought two hours and 21 minutes.
Up next for the resurgent Gasparyan is the always-dangerous Camila Giorgi. The No.5 seeded Italian edged past Jil Teichmann 7-6(2), 6-3 yesterday to reach the quarterfinals.
Joining them in the quarterfinals, No.3 seed Barbora Strycova breezed past lucky loser Kristyna Pliskova in 45 minutes to win 6-0, 6-1, and qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova upset Johanna Larsson 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
More to follow...