NEW YORK, NY, USA – No.8 seed Petra Martic avoided an upset against WTA World No.102 Varvara Gracheva as she moved through to the fourth round of the US Open with a 6-3, 6-3 success in 89 minutes.
The Croatian won the pair’s only previous meeting in Prague last month and picked this match off in straight sets as she mustered a more consistent level than her opponent, who was the chief protagonist of this affair.
Martic secured three breaks in the opening set, and Gracheva, who fought back from 6-1, 5-1 down against Kristina Mladenovic in the second round, saving four match points in the process, was unable to extend her maiden Grand Slam appearance further by repeating that escape.
“I played her a couple of weeks ago and I knew it was going to be a tough match,” Martic said. “She likes to grind, she’s really quick and she’s a great counterpuncher. I definitely had to work today and I’m pleased I got the win in straight sets.
“I managed to change up the rhythm well. When she plays at the same rhythm she doesn’t make many mistakes and I was getting pulled into that game. My serve always helps, this court is a bit slower so my kick works well and I think that was key.”
The WTA World No.15 was aggressive from the outset and forced three break points in the opening game, taking the last of these with a deft lob over her opponent.
Gracheva, who made her Top 100 debut earlier this year, had a feisty approach to the match, and this paid off as she levelled immediately by hitting hard when the Martic serve failed to find its mark.
Reliability, however, was an issue with the Russian, who made 17 unforced errors in the opening set in comparison to her opponent’s five. Although 10 winners – a tally matched by Martic – allowed her to remain competitive, the higher-ranked player largely looked in command.
This issue was highlighted in the final game of the opening set, as an ill-timed second double fault of the match brought the score to 30-30, and at the second attempt the opening frame was sealed by Martic.
The 29-year-old suffered something of a lapse at the beginning of the second as she was immediately broken, but after three unforced Gracheva errors presented her with an opportunity, parity was soon restored.
Martic, who now holds an 8-7 winning record at the US Open, pressed closer to the finishing line as she broke her opponent’s serve again, notably utilizing a short slice that brought the Russian to the net, whereupon she was picked off.
Gracheva’s fighting spirit has already been amply demonstrated this week but it was again evident as pushed Martic all the way to the end. The seed had to survive an 11-minute examination on serve in the fifth game, and while she saved five break points on that occasion was unable to resist when the 20-year-old fashioned another opportunity.
Martic’s class told, though, as she immediately broke back then held on serve to love for the first time to seal the match, securing a last-16 berth with Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Yulia Putintseva in the process.