BRISBANE, Australia – Lesia Tsurenko powered past Anett Kontaveit, 7-5, 6-3 and into the semifinals of the Brisbane International.
Kontaveit served for the opening set but missed two opportunities to grab it and saw the momentum of the match slip away from her.
The Estonian had come through a tight encounter against No.4 seed Petra Kvitova in the second round but rarely seemed comfortable against an opponent who played at a lower tempo but impressive consistency.
Indeed, coach Nigel Sears implored her to settle down midway through the opening set, and though this prompted a brief improvement, which saw her break serve to lead 5-3, it was simply a fleeting glimpse of what she is capable of.
Tsurenko, to her credit, played at a steady level throughout and gradually forced errors from her opponent by targeting the backhand side and keeping her unforced error count to a minimum. Even when set point down, she refused to panic and, against an opponent who was looking increasingly uneasy once again, she managed to salvage the situation.
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The decisive moment in the opener arrived when Kontaveit failed to put away a smash when level on serve, and on the run Tsurenko sent a sizzling backhand winner past the 23-year-old to manufacture a chance that led to her breaking and taking the set.
Maintaining her momentum, Tsurenko immediately broke again to take the advantage in the second, and though there was a period that it seemed that her opponent might fade, the WTA World No.29 was forced to labor in order to overcome a player ranked six spots higher than her.
A monstrous fifth game in the second set might have provided a platform for a recovery as Kontaveit won it after 11 minutes, eight deuces and having faced three break points, but Tsurenko remained unmoved.
With Kontaveit still throwing in unforced errors - she made 30 in total - the 29-year-old saw out the match without any great fuss, breaking again to seal the set and a 19th Top 20 scalp of her career.
“Some of my wins last year, gave me the confidence that I can beat top players,” she said on court after the match. “I want to keep this mindset for the Australian Open.”
One of those stars that she hopes to compete with is Naomi Osaka, who she will face on Saturday in the semifinals, and it is a date she is looking forward to.
“She’s a great player. She’s focused on every point. I’ll have a really tough match, but I’ll be ready for that and I’m excited to play again,” she said.