JURMALA, Latvia -- Bernarda Pera of the United States advanced to the quarterfinals of the Baltic Open on Thursday by defeating Elena Rybakina, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2, and ending the Kazakh’s six-match winning streak in the process.
20-year-old Rybakina won her first career WTA singles title last week at Bucharest, but Pera proved to be too much for the World No.65 down the stretch, and the American emerged with a victory after one hour and 35 minutes of play.
“I was struggling with [Rybakina's] serve a bit in the first set, I was trying to find my rhythm," Pera said, after her win. "I think she was playing very well at the start, she’s a great player, and I’m happy to win this match."
“In the second set, I was just able to find my rhythm, find my feet," Pera continued. "I was going for my shots and my game came together really well.”
World No.74 Pera, who is coming off a strong semifinal run of her own at Lausanne last week and defeated Latvian Grand Slam champion Jelena Ostapenko in the opening round this week, ended up converting five of her ten break points in the match, and had 25 winners to Rybakina's 16. Pera is now one win away from her third WTA semifinal of the season.
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The opening set was closely contested from beginning to end, and both players saved break points in the first two games of the encounter. Pera was finding fabulous forehands, smacking a winner down the line to hold for 2-2, while Rybakina was sublime on serve in the latter end of the set, knocking out two love holds to reach 5-4.
In that game, it was Pera who blinked first when she least needed to, as she pushed a backhand miscue into the net to give Rybakina two break points, which doubled as set points. The Kazakh found a forehand crosscourt winner on her first chance to close out the opening set, as she edged closer to a seventh straight win.
But Pera earned a service break to open the second set, then saved a break point to hold for 2-0, and from that juncture forward, the powerful American was in control of the match. Big returns earned Pera a 3-0, double-break lead, and she cruised to the 26-minute bagel set from there.
Pera started the deciding set with the same level of play, using sturdy returns and solid depth of shot to break Rybakina in the first game. Rybakina finally ended Pera’s string of games at eight, after a love hold for 2-1, but the Kazakh was unable to find her way back into the set, and dropped serve once more to grant Pera a 4-1 lead.
Rybakina faced a match point at 5-1, but Pera missed that opportunity with a long backhand error, and last week’s Bucharest champion maneuvered to a hold for 5-2. Pera, however, was unfazed, and coolly served out the match in the next game to book her spot in the Jurmala quarterfinals.
24-year-old Pera will now face qualifier Nina Stojanovic of Serbia in the quarterfinals, in what will be their first meeting. Stojanovic defeated fellow qualifier Paula Ormaechea of Argentina, 6-0, 6-3, earlier on Thursday.
"I watched a little bit [of Stojanovic] because I played afterwards," said Pera. "I was cheering for her to finish fast so I could get on court! She’s a great player and she played very well today – it’s going to be a great match."