MOSCOW, Russia – Aliaksandra Sasnovich sent top seed Kristina Mladenovic out of the Kremlin Cup, triumphing 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, in second round action on Wednesday.
Taking the ball early indoors, Sasnovich struck 27 winners to 29 unforced errors over the course of the nearly two-hour encounter, broke serve a total of seven times and sealed victory on serve on her third match point.
Mladenovic served just over 50% for the match, and the Belarusian duly took advantage of 16 double faults off the Frenchwoman's racquet, keeping the pressure on and creating a staggering 19 break point chances.
"I was just trying to start a rally [on her third match point] - I couldn't do it on the first two, and I managed to do it on my third. I'd like to thank Kristina for playing this match and I wish her all the best," Sasnovich said on-court after the match.
"I'm glad I won it and I'm going to try and prepare better for my next match."
The French player has experienced a slump in form over recent weeks, having now made 10 successive first-round exits, and the victory marked the second career win for Sasnovich against a Top 20 player, and first of the year.
The Belarusian started brilliantly, breaking her opponent’s serve twice on the trot to begin the first set, and never dropping her own despite facing three break points in the fourth game of the match.
Mladenovic improved her defense significantly in the second set, though, making inroads on the World No.100's serve to level matters - winning her first set since the Citi Open in the mid-summer.
Sasnovich never held serve in the second set, seeing Mladenovic break her four times and win 17 of the 23 points played on return.
"I wasn't really playing my best tennis, Sasnovich said of the mid-match blip. "In the third set, I played well, but I feel like I can do much better."
Nonetheless, the 23-year-old Belarusian had her eyes on a notable win and a place in the quarterfinals, striking her backhand cleverly to no response.
Sasnovich will next face Russian Daria Kasatkina, who defeated Katerina Siniakova in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, as she looks to reach her first Premier-level semifinal.
Sasnovich's victory, coupled with Lesia Tsurenko's win over No.2 seed CoCo Vandeweghe, began what proved to be a tough day to be a seed in Moscow.
By the end of play, the top four seeds had been eliminated, as Natalia Vikhlyantseva defeated No.3 seed Elena Vesnina in an all-Russian affair to end the day, 7-6(3), 6-4, after No.4 seed Anastasija Sevastova fell at the hands of Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-4, 6-3.
In addition No.6 seed Daria Gavriloa and No.8 seed Magdalena Rybarikova succumbed to injuries, retiring down a set and a break to teenaged Belarusian qualifier Vera Lapko, and down a set to Alizé Cornet, respectively.