MIAMI, FL, USA - Yulia Putintseva broke new ground on the Premier Mandatory level as the two-time French Open quarterfinalist shocked No.11 seed Anastasija Sevastova, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the fourth round for the first time at the Miami Open.
"It seems like it might be better for me here than Key Biscayne, but I loved it there as well, because of how beautiful it was, with good conditions," she said after the match. "I like the courts here, even though it was really windy at the beginning of the match. Once the wind went down, it got easier for me to play."
Rallying from a slow start against the 2018 US Open semifinalist, Putintseva rolled through the deciding set from a break down, converting her fourth match point after one hour and 47 minutes on Butch Buchholz court.
"It’s always tough playing her because she gets a lot of balls back, runs well. I was expecting a tough match and I’m happy to get through and to win."
The Kazakh had lost previous last two meetings against Sevastova, most recently in three sets at the Kremlin Cup last fall, and looked in trouble after falling behind in the opening three games.
"I was a little bit confident after winning my last two matches here. When I lost the first set, I thought I could keep on fighting, keep on going. I’m happy it worked in the end, because I was playing better and better as the match went on."
Sevastova had seen her BNP Paribas Open campaign cut short due to a viral illness last week, and was evidently eager to make up for lost time as she grabbed another break of serve to quickly capture the opening set in blustery conditions.
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The pair remained on serve to start the second until Putintseva turned the tables to earn a 4-2 lead, and put away an impressive passing shot to break serve once more to level the match.
"Sometimes it’s challenging, especially when something is not going your way, like in the first set," she said of her famously emotional on-court demeanor. "Everything was falling apart! At the end of the first set, I told myself that I had to run, adapt to what’s coming, and fight. It didn’t matter that it’s 5-1, I still had to fight.
"I fought for one game, then the second set started, and I fought for another game and another after that. All of the sudden, I started playing better and Sevastova’s level dropped a bit. It was a turning point when I broke her for 4-2. That’s when I felt more confident that I could do it, put the ball inside – even with this wind! It was very important for me."
Down a break in the decider, the World No.44 caught fire after hitting a deft drop shot to earn two break points of her own, converting the first with a searing backhand pass.
Riding the momentum to within one game of victory, Putintseva and Sevastova treated the crowd to a tense ending as the Latvian saved three match points before the Kazakh ultimately secured her spot in the Round of 16.
"I practice here in Florida, so I already like these conditions, and I was ready for what’s coming. The court seems very comfortable for me, pretty slow. I feel good here."
Standing between Putintseva and a spot in the quarterfinals is either former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova or Alizé Cornet. Pliskova played Putintseva in her first match of the 2019 season at the Brisbane International, recovering from a set and a break down to win in three tough sets.
"It’ll be a different style, definitely. Pliskova is the one serving big, trying to hit big shots. Cornet will be running everywhere, trying to get all the balls in the court. It’ll be completely different styles, but whatever is coming, I’ll be ready, and I’ll do my best."