NEW YORK, NY, USA -- No.30 seed Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain fought through a challenging match against No.6 seed Caroline Garcia of France, to edge to a 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(4) victory, and make the fourth round of the US Open once more.
"It was really tough," Suárez Navarro admitted to the press, after the match. "I was a break up in the first set, but I didn’t take my serve then. But every point, every game was so close."
"At the end, the final set was a really good set," Suárez Navarro continued. "She played good, I played good. It was unbelievable, the tiebreak -- everything happened, but finally I won. I played a really good match."
The Spaniard, a US Open quarterfinalist in 2013, has now reached the fourth round in New York for the fifth time in her career, following the nearly two-and-a-half-hour marathon win over Garcia, which was Suárez Navarro's first win over the Frenchwoman in their three meetings.
Suárez Navarro said continually making the fourth round at a major is "always tough, it’s always difficult. You have to win really good matches, you always have to face one Top 10 or Top 20 player. I feel good, I was fighting. I didn’t play good in my [last] match, against Kiki [Mladenovic] I was so nervous, but finally I won."
Suárez Navarro claimed her fourth victory over a Top 10 opponent this season, and her 20th career win in New York. The Spanish No.2 eked to a win by clinching over half of points on her second serve while taking more than half of the points on Garcia's second delivery. Garcia had nine aces, but had slightly more unforced errors than the Spaniard, by 46 to 42.
"I tried to be focused all the time on my serve, because I know if I got a break, maybe she’d serve better, more relaxed," said Suárez Navarro. "She was serving good all the time. I don’t know what was the key, but I was thinking a lot on my serve, and it worked."
In the fourth round, Suárez Navarro will face either 2006 US Open champion and former World No.1 Maria Sharapova, or 2017 Roland Garros titlist and No.10 seed Jelena Ostapenko, who face off in a third-round marquee match on Saturday night.
The combatants exchanged breaks en route to a 3-3 deadlock, but aside from those slips, both Garcia and Suárez Navarro were generally dominant on their serves, and after the Spaniard held for 5-5 with an ace, it appeared that the first set was headed for a decisive tiebreak.
But after the Frenchwoman came back from 15-30 down to hold for 6-5 behind her excellent delivery and strong forehand, it was the Spaniard who blinked again on serve, quickly falling behind multiple set points. Garcia took quick advantage, wrapping up the first set with a break via a backhand crosscourt winner.
But Suárez Navarro used excellent service returns to take control of the next set from the get-go, breaking Garcia in the very first game. Suárez Navarro held through with no trouble up to 5-3.
In fact, neither player faced a break point in the set other than the ones against Garcia in the first game, but that meant that the Frenchwoman was never able to come close to drawing level, while the Spaniard was hitting solid groundstrokes off both wings. Suárez Navarro eventually held for one set apiece after a powerful serve on set point was batted back into the net by Garcia.
Both players were superlative on serve during the grueling 64-minute final set, as only three break points in total appeared during the decider. The first chance came on Suárez Navarro’s serve at 3-2, but the Spaniard, who knocked off big serves anytime she needed to after the first set, did so again, and eventually held for 3-3.
Then the Spaniard had an extremely large opportunity at 5-5 to go up a crucial break, when Garcia double faulted to give Suárez Navarro double break point. But the Frenchwoman stepped up when necessary, blasting a forehand winner to save the first break point, and a strong serve to reach deuce. Garcia held from there, and the match moved into a wide-open tiebreak.
Garcia opened with an ace but Suárez Navarro stayed firm to win her first two service points. The Spaniard then attained an important mini-break to lead 3-2, when her lauded one-handed backhand forced Garcia into an error.
Astonishingly, that would be the only point to go against serve in the breaker, which spelled doom for Garcia despite her solid play. Garcia stayed steadfast to keep within touching distance at 4-5, but on the next point, she hit a service return long to give Suárez Navarro two match points. The Spaniard converted the first with a backhand winner, naturally, and bounced into round four.