Rising American Hailey Baptiste won a gripping second-round encounter at the Guadalajara Open Akron on Monday, edging past former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(4).
The 21-year-old Baptiste, ranked World No.169, saved a match point at 5-3 in the third set, then battled to victory over No.16 seed Pliskova after 2 hours and 49 minutes of action.
Baptiste has now beaten Pliskova twice this summer in their two career meetings. Two months ago, Baptiste toppled Pliskova in the American's hometown of Washington, D.C.
In Monday's unpredictable match, Pliskova was two points away from taking the first set, but two consecutive double faults helped Baptiste get back on serve at 5-5. Baptiste squeaked out the tiebreak to complete the first-set comeback.
In the second set, it was Pliskova who pulled off a comeback after Baptiste failed to serve out the match at 5-3. Pliskova won four games in a row from there to take the second set. Baptiste hit three double faults in the last game of the set.
Pliskova fired a forehand winner to reach her match point at 5-3 in the third set, but a deep groundstroke by Baptiste forced an Pliskova error on that chance. Baptiste went on to break serve in that game en route to a decisive third-set tiebreak.
In the breaker, Baptiste let a 3-0 lead slip back to 3-3, but her outstanding rally defense set up a backhand winner to lead 5-3. At 6-4, Baptiste converted her second match point after a long Pliskova backhand, making the Round of 16 at a WTA 1000 event for the first time in her career.
Pliskova continues to struggle in tiebreaks this season. After losing both on Monday, she is now 1-9 in tiebreaks at tour level in 2023.
Earlier on Monday, another former World No.1, Victoria Azarenka, breezed to a 6-1, 6-1 first-round victory over 19-year-old American Robin Montgomery. Azarenka needed only 69 minutes to advance to the second round.
"I know [Montgomery's] up-and-coming, has a big game, big power," Azarenka said afterward. "I was trying to just not let her use that power more and dictate the ball. I thought it was a pretty strong start, and then I kind of kept going with the pressure."
No.10 seed Azarenka, who reached the semifinals in Guadalajara last year, never dropped serve in Monday's match. The two-time Australian Open champion was nearly perfect behind her first service, winning 19 of 20 points when she got her first delivery into play.
Azarenka never faced a break point until the very last game, when 144th-ranked Montgomery held a trio of chances. However, Azarenka erased each of those opportunities -- one with her third and final ace of the day -- before closing out the match.
Azarenka will next meet Dayana Yastremska in the second round. Yastremska won their first meeting 7-5, 7-5 at 2019 Toronto, but Azarenka prevailed 6-4, 6-0 in their second and most recent meeting in Washington, D.C. last year.