Australian qualifier Daria Saville continued her resurgent run of form in North America, defeating No.9 seed Ons Jabeur 7-5, 6-7(0), 6-4 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open. The win is Saville's first Top 10 win since undergoing achilles surgery in February 2021. Her last Top 10 win came against Petra Kvitova at 2018 Beijing.
Saville (née Gavrilova), reached a career-high No.20 in 2017 but was subsequently hampered by foot and achilles issues. Sidelined for over six months after the 2020 French Open, Saville played three tournaments at the start of 2021 before deciding to undergo surgery in February. She returned at the Billie Jean King Cup last November but struggled to find her game at the start of this season in Australia.
But something has clicked for the 28-year-old in North America, her first overseas trip since 2020. Three weeks ago in Guadalajara, Gavrilova outlasted top seed Emma Raducanu in the longest match of the WTA season. She took eventual champion Sloane Stephens to three sets before turning her sights on a successful qualifying campaign in Indian Wells.
Saville's confidence has only grown in the California desert. She defeated Lyon champion Zhang Shuai in the first round before battling past Jabeur in 2 hours and 39 minutes.
How the match was won: Saville kept the pressure on Jabeur's service games throughout the tight match, which saw both women build leads only to be pulled back to level. Saville generated 17 break points on the Jabeur serve, successfully breaking seven times over the match.
Saville's trademark fighting spirit was on full display in front of a standing-room-only crowd on Stadium 9. Down a break in the first set with Jabeur looking to serve it out at 5-4, Saville ran off the final three games, breaking twice to steal the opener. The second set saw Jabeur save two match points before routing Saville in the tiebreak, keeping a perfect 7-0 clean sheet to force a deciding set.
Again, Saville would come from a break down to edge the set. After Jabeur struck first to break for a 2-0 lead, Saville broke back immediately and went right back to work to build a 4-2 lead. Jabeur, a semifinalist last fall, made one final push to surge ahead as she leveled the final set at 4-4. But Saville's relentless return pressure would once again pay dividends, as she broke Jabeur for a seventh and final time and served out the win.
Saville snaps her streak: "On paper, I probably had no right to believe I could win," Saville said after the win. "I just felt good before the match. I thought it wasn't a bad match-up for me. So right before the match, I thought I could do this.
"I lost 13 points in a row and had match points and didn't really do anything wrong," Saville said after the win. "I counted all the points I lost in a row and I thought ok, if I win this one I'm going to scream the biggest 'Come on', and I did.
"Ons is very clutch on big points. I knew that whenever I'm up and she's facing break points that she's going to come up with something crazy. At the end, I knew that I had to probably risk a little bit more."
Saville on her growing confidence and tough test against Mertens: "It's just reassurance that I can do this, that I can last long matches, that I can beat [top players]. I've beaten Emma, a Grand Slam champion, I played three-sets with Sloane.
"I'm motivated to keep going. I have zero expectations. Especially against Elise Mertens. I haven't beaten this girl! But I'm excited. I told my coaching team, if I can beat her that will give me a lot of confidence. I have no fear."
Kontaveit getting comfortable in Indian Wells
No.4 seed Anett Kontaveit needed just 65 minutes to advance to the third round, defeating Slovakia's Kristina Kucova 6-4, 6-1 in her tournament opener. Kontaveit will face No.30 seed Marketa Vondrousova next. The 2019 Roland Garros finalist lost just four games in her opening match, defeating Poland's Magdalena Frech 6-3, 6-1.
Facing No.77 Kucova for the first time, Kontaveit quickly rebounded from an early break to dominate the rest of the way. After consolidating her lone break to 4-2, Kuciva would win just one more game for the remainder of the match. Kontaveit reeled off four straight games to take the opening set and went on to win the last six games of the match.
"I think I started the first few games pretty well, felt the ball really well, then felt I started rushing a little bit," Kontaveit said. "The surface is a little bit slower than in previous weeks.
"It was just about playing the points through. When I was down a break I realized I don't have to go for quick winners, just play the points through a bit more. I had to work my way back into the set and then managed to play a consistent match from there."
No.31 seed Golubic edges Putintseva in three tight sets
Switzerland's Viktorija Golubic made good on her seeding in Indian Wells, coming back from a break down in the third set to defeat Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in the second round. The win moves Golubic into the third round of Indian Wells for the second straight year, having done so the first time last fall. She will face Italy's Jasmine Paolini, who stunned top seed Aryna Sabalenka in three sets earlier in the day.