BUCHAREST, Romania - Former champion Irina-Camelia Begu overcame rising teenager Kaja Juvan 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 34 minutes to reach her second quarterfinal at the BRD Bucharest Open.
Begu, the highest-ranked home hope remaining in the draw, held her nerve throughout a first set featuring five breaks of serve and stormed back from a 0-2 deficit in the second set to win six of the last seven games of the match. Afterwards, she expressed satisfaction about her upturn in form after suffering knee and ankle injuries at the start of 2019: "I'm really happy about the win," she smiled. "Every match is better - it wasn't easy coming from grass, but I'm playing much better every match."
Juvan, who impressed on her Wimbledon debut this month by stretching Serena Williams to three sets in the second round, again showed flashes of all-court brilliance today in a match that was tightly contested throughout and ultimately came down to Begu's clutch play on a handful of key points. The Slovenian conjured up a delightful dropshot-lob volley combination in the opening game, and her shotmaking down the line garnered her several smooth winners.
However, Begu rode the knife-edge of the match with superior focus. When Juvan snapped a streak of four breaks to hold for 4-3 in the first set, the 18-year-old seemed to have gained control of a patchy opening stretch - but instead it was the Romanian who buckled down to win the next three games, chasing down Juvan's dropshots and finding her best serves of the match.
Similarly, Begu withstood a number of potential turning points in the second set. The World No.112 raised her first serve percentage from 60% to 73% and began to find more success on the drive volley as she made her comeback from 0-2 down, but two key games stood out. In the fifth game, Juvan staved off four break points to move ahead 3-2, eventually holding with a superb defence-to-offence rally that left Begu visibly frustrated.
But the 28-year-old did not allow Juvan's momentum to continue, turning around to deliver her most authoritative hold of the match for 3-3. Instead, it was the teenage philosophy fan whose concentration wavered at crucial times. Throughout the match, Juvan would often commit wayward unforced errors when in commanding positions in rallies, and the World No.111's forehand in particular would repeatedly find the net at ill-timed junctures.
So it proved with a series of errors from that wing to concede another break to Begu. One game later, with the 2017 champion serving at 4-3, 30-30, an astonishing point found Juvan failing to bury a smash - and Begu managing to hustle her way back into the rally to eventually put away a volley herself.
That golden opportunity to get back into the match would be Juvan's last, as a sequence of unfortunate dropshot attempts paved the way to one final break for Begu to seal victory. In the quarterfinals, Begu will face either No.6 seed Laura Siegemund or Lara Arruabarrena in a bid to reach her first semifinal of the season.