MELBOURNE, Australia - Carla Suárez Navarro was a set and 1-4 down before she completed a dramatic turnaround to see off No.32 seed Anett Kontaveit in the fourth round of the Australian Open, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6.
With two previous quarterfinal appearances in Melbourne, Suárez Navarro has seen much of her Grand Slam success come at the Happy Slam. But troubles with wrist and shoulder injuries over the last year and a half have kept her from reaching her best tennis, entering the 2018 Australian Open unseeded.
Her opponent Kontaveit, who was vying to reach the last eight of a Slam for the first time in her career, stunned the reigning French Open champion and World No.7 Jelena Ostapenko in the previous round.
She carried all of that momentum into the matchup against Suárez Navarro, starting out consistently aggressive and dictating the rallies. She took the first break after overpowering the Spaniard in an epic fifth game to get ahead 3-2. Suárez Navarro had chances to level them up, creating three break opportunities across Kontaveit’s next two service games, but couldn’t convert as the Estonian edged through the tight opening set.
Kontaveit started the second set just as strongly, breaking twice to go up 4-1, and looked ready to cruise into her first ever Australian Open quarterfinal.
But Suárez Navarro, the two time quarterfinalist here, drew from her long experience to calmly turn around the set - she reeled off five games in a row as her opponent seemed to freeze up and her let her level drop slightly.
The Estonian got ahead first in the final set as well, taking advantage of an edgy service game from Suárez Navarro to break at 5-4 and come out serving for the match in the next game. But once again, it was Suárez Navarro who stayed calm in the big moments, breaking straight back to stay alive in the match. She needed three match points to get the job done in extra games, but finally closed out Kontaveit 8-6 in the third.
Kontaveit played a dominant set and a half against Suárez Navarro but couldn’t keep up her level as the veteran Spaniard kept her cool in the big moments to complete the turnaround in just over two hours on court. Kontaveit struck 53 winners to Suárez Navarro’s 19, but was undone by her 46 unforced errors against the Spaniard’s 27. She also struggled with her serve, striking six double faults, and created almost half of the break chances that Suárez Navarro did, converting on four of nine compared to her opponent’s five of 16.
Suárez Navarro’s victory against Kontaveit sends her through to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since 2016 here in Melbourne. She’ll take No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki for a chance to reach her career first Grand Slam semifinal.
“We have played a lot of times together,” Suárez Navarro said of her upcoming opponent. “I know how she play. I know how tough she is. It will be a really tough match. She's fighting for every ball, but at the same time she can play aggressive. She has a lot of experience on these rounds.
“It will be a really interesting match. For sure I have to be focused all the time and 100% to beat Caroline.”