MADRID, Spain - No.8 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova was made to work in her second round match against AIison Riske, having to save a match point against in a three-set thriller to advance at the Mutua Madrid Open, 2-6, 7-6(9), 6-2.
The unseeded American came into the matchup trailing 4-1 in the pair’s head to head record, all of the matches on hardcourts - but heartened by a victory in the pair’s latest match, a tight three-setter in Tianjin 2016.
The World No.39 played well above her ranking to start with a double break against Kuznetsova, a former French Open champion. Kuznetsova was undone by her unforced errors; despite coming out slightly more aggressive than the American, with 14 winners to Riske’s 10, Riske hit just four unforced errors to Kuznetsova’s 11.
Kuznetsova had chances to cut into Riske’s lead, holding a break point on two separate occasions, but wasn’t able to convert as the American grabbed the first set.
Riske broke once again to start what would become an epic, hour-long second set as Kuznetsova keeping herself within touching distance. With Riske two points from victory, Kuznetsova finally getting the break back late in the set at 5-5 to force a tiebreak.
At 5-5, Kuznetsova fired off a huge forehand to bring up her first set point but an unforced error put Riske right back in it. Later at 8-7, Kuznetsova fearlessly crushed a forehand crosscourt to deny Riske on match point, threaded a backhand down the line to bring up a third set point.
The Russian finally took the set at the fourth time of asking, raising her level with a barrage of late winners that she carried into the third set, opening with a double break lead for 4-0.
Kuznetsova seemed to have finally found her range, hitting winners from all angles of the court and quickly marching ahead to put away the match after two hours and twenty-six minutes.
She will take on the winner between qualifiers Zheng Saisai and Wang Qiang for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Also in action, Kristina Mladenovic also survived a scare against an inspired American to reach the round of 16 in Madrid. She recovered from an early break down to take the first set against Lauren Davis, but found herself down 4-0 in the second as Davis leveled the match.
The pair wrestled for momentum in the closely contested final set – which saw the pair trade breaks three times – before Mladenovic pulled away in the tiebreaker, winning 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(1).
More to follow…