LONDON, Great Britain - No.13 seed Jelena Ostapenko took a titanic second set tiebreak to clinch her first Wimbledon quarterfinal on Manic Monday, dispatching No.4 seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 7-6(6).
"My first matches were very tough, like very close matches," she said after the match. "But today was also a tough match. I think I'm playing better with every match, like at the French.
"So I hope I can keep it up."
Ostapenko arrived to the second week on a 10-match winning streak at Grand Slam tournaments having won Roland Garros and becoming the first maiden major champion to reach the fourth round of her next Slam appearance since Victoria Azarenka in 2012.
"The first couple of matches were tough. I wasn't playing my best. But I still won. I was fighting. So I think that's the key for getting your confidence and playing better and better with every match."
Svitolina, by contrast, came to the All England Club under an injury cloud after revealing an Achilles injury might jeopardize her Wimbledon campaign. The Ukrainian superstar nonetheless rolled into the second week without dropping a set, gritting past Aegon Classic runner-up Asheligh Barty in the opening round.
"She was playing really well. She was running well, serving well. I really needed to stay very aggressive to win every point. But even on the match points, the rallies were really long. I really had to go for it to win the match."
After battling through a pair of three-setters against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and former junior colleague Francoise Abanda, Ostapenko won her first straight-set match since the French Open against Camila Giorgi and started similarly on fire against Svitolina, roaring out to a double break lead.
Winner in Dubai and Rome, Svitolina got close to leveling the opening set only for Ostapenko to dig out a hard-fought eighth game to ride the momentum into a one-set advantage.
The pair exchanged breaks to start the second set and it all looked clear for the Latvian as she got within a game of victory, holding five match points - four on her own serve - before Svitolina forced a tiebreak.
"Today I was a little bit nervous because I was, like, 6-3, 5-3 up, 40-15 and serving. I didn't serve so well. So after that, I was a little bit nervous because I also was 6-5, 30-0 down, and she was serving. I'm glad I won in the end."
Once in the sudden death, Ostapenko needed three more match points before finally clinching the win on her eighth to advance after one hour and 43 minutes on No.12 Court. The win makes her the first maiden Slam champion to reach the quarterfinals in her next major appearance since 2006, when Kim Clijsters reached the semis at the Australian Open after winning the US Open in 2005.
The last time a player has done it in the same calendar year? Justine Henin, who followed up her French Open debut win with a run to the final four at the 2003 Wimbledon Championships.
In all, Ostapenko's aggressive game clicked when it mattered most, hitting 42 winners to 39 unforced errors and converted six of 10 break point opportunities, including one as Svitolina served for the second set at 6-5.
"She has lots of confidence now," Svitolina said in her post-match press conference. "She won lots of matches. It will be interesting to see when, if she will struggle a bit later later in the year, how she's gonna play, because I've known her couple of years already. I know how she can play; there are some bad times in her game, as well.
"Now she played brilliant a game and match. I did my best. I fought until the end, and those few points she made the winner or unbelievable angle, there's not much I could do."
Svitolina played a clean match from start to finish, hitting 14 winners and errors each, but struggled under the pressure of the Ostapenko return, hitting just 50% of her first serves in and winning just 14 points on her second serve. Still, Svitolina warned, she would be back.
"I'm happy overall with the grass courts. It was good. It was a good experience. It was better than I expected.
"Now I'm looking forward to hardcourts, a surface where I feel pretty confident. So I'm going to have few weeks off now and then slowly prepare for Toronto. It will be very exciting time."
Up next for the reigning Roland Garros champion is five-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams, who breezed past No.27 seed Ana Konjuh - a former junior rival of Ostapenko's - in straight sets.
"She's such a great player," Ostapenko said. "I will just go on court and enjoy the match because I really have nothing to lose."
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