MADRID, Spain - Trailing 5-3 in the final set, top seed Angelique Kerber dug in to defeat Katerina Siniakova, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 in just over two hours to advance to the round of 16 at the Mutua Madrid Open.
After the pair split sets, it was the 20-year-old Czech who earned the first break of the decider to move ahead 4-3 and served for the match at 5-4. Nonetheless, she never earned a match point as the World No.2 ran off the last four games to ensure the tournament wouldn't see both its top two seeds fall on Monday, after Karolina Pliskova's exit at the hands of Anastasija Sevastova.
"I think she played one of the best matches in this year," Kerber assessed after the match. "I was trying at the end coming back. I know that I can come back and win matches like that when I'm down, so that was actually what was going on in my mind in the third set.
"I think it was from my side a really up-and-down match. I played really good in the first set; in the second set, the first few games at the beginning of the second set, it was really close, then she started playing better. She started moving good, [bringing] a lot of balls back. In the third set, I was just trying to find my game back."
Kerber hadn't lost a set against Siniakova in each of the pair's first two meetings, and looked well on her way to continuing the trend as she broke in each of Siniakova's first three service games to take a 4-1 lead in the opening set.
The World No.2 won 81 percent of her first serve points in the opening set, and also won 62 percent of points on return before saving a break point in the eighth game to wrap up the opener in just under 30 minutes.
The Czech's momentum built at the start of the second set, however, as she forced Kerber to save six break points in a marathone first service game that went to deuce 10 times. Though the German finally game through the 12-minute game after winning its 26th point, Siniakova sprinted through the middle set by claiming the next five games.
After Siniakova saved a trio of break points on serve at 3-3 - the first for either player in the deciding set - she broke the Kerber delivery on her first opportunity and edged out a hold from 30-30 to move one game away from the upset.
"I was actually not thinking too much about the score because I know that I can change matches like that and coming back," Kerber said. "That was more on my mind. I was trying to staying still positive, playing point by point. I was not looking ahead or back, just trying to staying in the moment there, and fighting."
Nonetheless, the two-time Grand Slam champion stepped up her level in the penultimate games of the match and snagged her first break of serve since the opening set at 5-4, winning each of the last three games of the match to 30.
The top seed will face the winner of the second round match between Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard for a place in the quarterfinals.
"I will wait for the match, first of all, and then I will think about who I will play," the top seed said. "But, you know, actually I'm not looking ahead the draws. I mean, next opponent, it's the next day, next match here for me.
"I'm just looking forward more on my side. I'm trying to having a lot of matches, good matches, also tough matches like today, before Paris. This is actually the goal I have in the next few weeks."