HIROSHIMA, Japan – No.3 seed Alison Van Uytvanck made her way to the quarterfinals of the Hana-cupid Japan Women’s Open with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over compatriot Kirsten Flipkens in one hour 55 minutes.
A tight clash in this all-Belgian encounter was forecast after two of their previous three meetings went the distance, and the players did not disappoint as they produced a nail-biting match that was decided by fine margins.
Van Uytvanck raced to the opening set in just 29 minutes and moved a break up in the second, but Flipkens hit back by winning five of six games to square the match. The decider was similarly tough to predict as a succession of long games eventually fell the way of the seed to take the match, thanks largely to 30 winners.
There was little doubt about who was the dominant force in the formative stages as the WTA World No.63 picked up two early breaks to move into a 3-0 advantage.
Although the opener would be swiftly concluded thanks to Van Uytvanck finding another break, it was not an entirely one-sided affair.
Indeed, the 25-year-old faced break points in three of her four service games but crucially played well in these clutch moments, saving four of five.
When she moved a break clear early in the second set, the match seemed poised to draw to a rapid conclusion but Van Uytvanck’s serve began to slump. She found just 52% of her first serves and won fewer than half the points on her delivery as Flipkens recovered to win five of six games and level the match.
The turnaround continued at the beginning of the decider as the 33-year-old broke immediately to lead for the first time since winning the first point of the match.
The two games that followed, however, were the decisive minutes of the match. Both were long multi-deuce affairs, with Van Uytvanck correcting the errors that she had made at net in the previous minutes to produce key winners at important moments.
It was evident that after he second-set malaise, the higher-ranked player was finding her best level, immediately squaring the set with a determined break then sealing an important hold, which provided the platform for her to go on and win the match.
The crucial break came in the sixth game and was backed up by two confident service games that saw Van Uytvanck seal a last-eight encounter with Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu.