STUTTGART, Germany - Anett Kontaveit saved two match points and withstood a three hour epic - the second longest of the season thus far - to dispatch 2017 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix runner-up Kristina Mladenovic, 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-6(5).
"I wasn’t thinking about the score and I was just trying to fight," she said during her on-court interview. "I thought we played great tennis and I’m really happy to be able to come back from such a difficult position. I’m really happy to be in the second round."
Kontaveit scored her first Top 10 win at this tournament last year - defeating Garbiñe Muguruza en route to the quarterfinals - and faced similarly tough opposition in Mladenovic, who was ranked as high as No.10 back in January.
"This court is very special. I mean I feel really good playing here and the crowd's support. I’m really happy to have turned it around here."
Starting the year with a run to the fourth round of the Australian Open, she had won just one match since, arriving to Stuttgart on a four-match losing streak."
"I came here with an empty mind. I mean, I love this tournament. It’s been a really positive vibe here and I’ve been feeling good. I just changed my mind set a little bit. I’m trying to be more positive and enjoy being here."
— WTA (@WTA) April 25, 2018
As for Mladneovic, injuries have led to inconsistencies for the Frenchwoman, though she began the season with the Australian Open women's doubles title and a return to the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy final.
Against Kontaveit, she rallied from 3-5 down to nab the opening set after nine breaks of serve and held a pair of match points on the Estonian's serve in the tenth game of the second.
The 22-year-old saved both and roared through the ensuing tie-break to level proceedings, thrice recovering from a break down to guarantee a sudden death to decide the epic.
"I was match point down but I didn’t feel that they were match points. I was really focusing on the game and didn’t think that much about the score because it was so even the whole time. So, I just kept doing what I was doing."
— WTA (@WTA) April 25, 2018
Mladenovic bravely saved the first two match points she faced - including one with a return that just clipped the baseline - but Kontaveit proved too strong in the end, clinching victory with a stunning forehand winner after three hours and nine minutes on Center Court.
"I had a few losses in a row and I was really happy to break it and to win a match. It felt really great to win a match again and to win it like this is even more sweet.
"I was really happy to be able to break this spell I had!"
Kontaveit will have little time to rest on her laurels with another dangerous opponent waiting in the wings; she'll next face two-time Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber, who dismissed No.8 seed Petra Kvitova to kick off Wednesday's night session. The pair played just once before, with Kontaveit winning at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
"We’ll see tomorrow; I’m so happy I got to play a match and win it, so I get to play another."