MIAMI, FL, USA - Svetlana Kuznetsova emerged the victor after a late night, two-hour and forty-three minute battle against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova for a spot in the Miami Open semifinals, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3.
While on paper the indefatigable Kuznetsova came into the match with all the advantages - she leads the head-to-head 5-1, has won the Miami title before and last round she knocked out defending champion Serena Williams - she was facing a monumental task against Makarova.
Would her fitness hold up or would all the time spent on court take a toll?
All of Kuznetsova's previous matches on her road to the quarterfinals had gone to three sets and lasted longer than two hours. Facing off against Makarova, her compatriot and Fed Cup teammate, Kuznetsova saw no reason to change the pattern while it's working, though it did take some extra motivation to keep the 30-year-old going.
"I told myself just keep fighting and keep running," Kuznetsova said afterwards. "I was feeling a little bit low on energy, so I was trying to keep myself going."
Things looked more straightforward for the 30-year-old as she went up 5-2 in the first set against Makarova. But it started to slip away from her as the fatigue began to creep up leaving her unable to run down her compatriot's shots. Makarova fought her way back to force a tiebreaker and win the first set.
"I lost a little bit of momentum in the first set when I had three set points and a 5-2 lead," Kuznetsova reflected after the match. "Then Ekaterina got on top and she played really well.
"I was just trying to hang in there and trying to serve better. That's it."
? WTA (@WTA) March 30, 2016
Kuznetsova turned things around in the second set, coming up to the net more often and playing more aggressively to keep the rallies shorter. The change in tactic worked, and she took the second set 6-4. She had just enough in the tank to do it again in the final set, closing out the match after two hours and forty three minutes on court.
The Russians were very evenly matched during the whole encounter - Kuznetsova hit 66 percent of first serves in, Makarova hit 64 percent; Kuznetsova hit 32 winners, Makarova hit 35 - but their unforced errors count set them apart: Kuznetsova hit just 27 winners to Makarova's 46.
? WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) March 30, 2016