ZHUHAI, China - Anett Kontaveit managed to shock defending champion Julia Goerges in a thrillingly balanced three-setter at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai - coming through 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 for a vital win.

If Goerges had won, Kontaveit would have been knocked out of the Rose Group following her opening loss to Elise Mertens.

"I played a great set in the first; I started well and I was playing quite consistent," said Kontaveit afterwards, adding some praise for Goerges's serving in the second set.

"It was definitely a big improvement from yesterday. It was a very close match. I think in the third set I was just trying to stay tough. It was close all along. In the end, it was about holding the serve and being consistent on the serve. I think I managed to do that well in the third."

With her place in the tournament on the line, the Estonian came prepared for battle, and broke the defending champion's serve in the opening game to set out her intentions.

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The 22-year-old followed that up with another break to take a 4-1 lead in the first set, and held then broke once more to give herself the chance to serve it out.

She did so with aplomb, as Goerges could find no answer for her fizzing serve or crushing forehand, and she wrapped it up 6-2 in just over half an hour.

Goerges began the second set in determined fashion, using her feet well to come into the net, and held serve to take an early lead.

It was the German's forehand which proved the difference in the fourth game of the second set, powering across court to wrong-foot Kontaveit and secure the break.

Goerges slipped over chasing a ball at the end of the sixth game, hurting her thigh, and took a quick break to ice the injury and compose herself.

It did not distract her too much, though, as she went on to break the Kontaveit serve once more and take the second set, 6-4.

It was a coaching intervention after five games of the decider that helped Kontaveit turn the corner. Nigel Sears told his charge that beating Goerges was within her grasp - but it would take hard work.

A break of serve followed, and Kontaveit rode the momentum to serve out the match 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 - and stay in the tournament.

"I think it definitely helps if you have a match under your belt, sort of get used to everything that you said. I think it gave me an advantage today," Kontaveit added.

"[The round robin] is definitely different. I guess it's something that I'm not really used to, but it is what it is and we'll see about tomorrow."