THE BRONX, NY, USA - No.5 seed Katerina Siniakova pulled off a remarkable escape in the quarterfinals of the NYJTL Bronx Open, saving two match points en route to overcoming wildcard Bernarda Pera 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 in two hours and 27 minutes.
"It was a really tough match," Siniakova told the press, after her victory. "[Pera is] aggressive, she plays so fast, and I was under pressure."
"I was just trying to keep fighting, and play every point," the victor added. "I was happy that I could come back, and it was a good match for me."
The result moves the Czech into her second semifinal of the season following her run to the last four in Prague, and maintains her unbeaten record in the pros against Pera - whom she also defeated in two previous qualifying tilts in Beijing last year and Sydney this January. In contrast to those straight-set affairs, though, Siniakova had to demonstrate all of her dogged fighting qualities today to regain control of a match that her powerful opponent had seemingly wrested from her grasp.
The 23-year-old had begun sharply, cannily deploying short slices to deny Pera an opening service hold from 40-0 up. Showcasing the remarkable net reflexes that had taken her to doubles World No.1 last year as well as some excellent point construction, Siniakova built a 4-2 lead - only to veer abruptly off course from there.
After two points for the double break lead had gone begging, Siniakova bounced her racquet in frustration - foreshadowing a change in momentum. As is so often the case, missed opportunities were immediately succeeded by a turning of the tide: Pera's errors dried up and the last American standing in the tournament reeled off six straight games.
Dictating play with her serve and forehand, the World No.69's power was her bedrock - as a number of full-blast returns made abundantly clear - but Pera was also poised enough to finish key points at net in order to find a way through Siniakova's scampering defence as she broke three times in a row to take the first set and a 2-0 lead in the second.
Though a rare wild backhand would gift this break back to Siniakova immediately, the World No.69 nonetheless maintained an iron grip of her serve to keep her nose in front. With both now playing well simultaneously for the first time in the match, the quality of the contest rose as the set headed from a dramatic conclusion.
In the run-up to the inevitable tiebreak, it was Pera who had come up with moments of magic, with a running forehand pass in the 10th game drawing gasps, while Siniakova had been clinging on all the way. But with her back to the wall, the World No.38 began to take over the highlights reel . Flinging herself around the court to desperately retrieve the ball, Siniakova would finish one stellar defensive point with a winning pass and another by twisting herself in the air to put away a high backhand volley. Down two match points, another bold net foray paid off as Pera was unable to make her own pass - and on her own set point, Siniakova again used the slice to drag her opponent around the court and eliciting the error.
If Siniakova's serve had been her weakness in the first two sets as she racked up six double faults, it would prove to be the star of the decider. The two-time WTA titlist - who had stunned the world this May by upsetting World No.1 Naomi Osaka in the third round of Roland Garros - now began to tally service winners and aces, finishing with eight of the latter. This made for a succession of comfortable holds - as well as a handy way to save two break points in the fifth game, the only danger point behind her delivery in the third set.
Pera, by contrast, was now struggling to maintain her consistency off the ground, with impatient errors gifting a succession of cheap points to Siniakova - and, in the fourth game, the break. The 24-year-old, who had been bidding for her fourth semifinal of the season following Prague, Lausanne and Jurmala, found no way back from there, and Siniakova would finish with the flourish of a backhand pass to seal a love hold.
Next up for Siniakova, who will be looking to make her first final since Shenzhen 2018, will be an unseeded but in-form opponent: either Washington runner-up Camila Giorgi or Lausanne finalist Alizé Cornet.