NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.30 seed Carla Suárez Navarro celebrated her 30th birthday in style on Monday night, ending five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova's undefeated run in US Open night matches, 6-4, 6-3, to reach her second quarterfinal in New York.
"When I woke up, I just was thinking on that match," she said after the match. "I just wanted to win. I mean, was a really good present for me. I was playing also last year same day against Venus Williams, and I lost. This time I don't want to feel like last year. I wanted to have a happy birthday, and I have it."
Playing some of the best tennis of her impressive career, the Spaniard played relentless offense to unsettle the former World No.1 and score her first win over the Russian - who had been 22-0 in Arthur Ashe Stadium at night, 23-0 at night overall - since the 2014 Coupe Rogers, securing victory after 91 minutes.
"I tried to play aggressive, tried to be focus on my game. Sometimes it's difficult when you go on this amazing court for the first time. I tried to play aggressive, to be solid sometimes because she hit fast the ball. I have to run and fight. But I think I made a really complete match from the beginning until the end. I'm happy with the way I play tonight."
It had been a tough season for the Spaniard since reaching the last eight of the Australian Open, losing before the second week at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon before catching fire this summer, making the Round of 16 in Montréal and finishing runner-up at the Connecticut Open in New Haven.
She enjoyed a brilliant start against Sharapova, winning four of the first five games to earn a double break advantage. While the 2006 champion got to within two points of leveling the set, Suárez Navarro held firm to maintain her lead and took that momentum into the second set.
Serving to stay in the match, Sharapova got out to a 40-15 only to see the crafty veteran step into the court and dictate play with her forehand, reversing the trend to seal her spot in the quarterfinals.
"What's challenging is when you're a teenager and you have a few hundred dollars and you've got no sense of the future, you don't know where you're going to end up," Sharapova said after the match. "You just have a dream. I think that's a lot tougher than being 31 years old and having the opportunity to do whatever I want in my life.
"I thought she played a great match. She did many things well. She was consistent when she had to be. She forced me to make mistakes. She moves extremely well. Those are all the things that I think we all know going into a matchup against someone like Carla."
In all, she struck 15 winners - the same number as Sharapova - but 18 fewer unforced errors (38 to 20), and converted six of eight break point opportunities - a much better birthday party than the 6-0, 6-0 defeat she took to Serena Williams at this event back in 2013.
Up next for the No.30 seed is 2017 runner-up Madison Keys, who improved to 5-0 against former World No.4 Dominika Cibulkova with a straight-set win earlier in the day.
"Madison plays so aggressive," Suárez Navarro said. "She serves really good. She has a really good forehand. For me it's tough. When I play against people who play really fast, for me it's tough. But I have to be ready. I think I'm ready."