Carla Suarez Navarro had the game of her tournament at the Mutua Madrid Open Tuesday night.
Battling back minor injuries, a tough opponent, and an intense environment; the 29-year-old unseeded Spaniard took down Elina Svitolina in three sets 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 on Arantxa Sanchez Court on the grounds of La Caja Magica.
The maintaining of her first serve got her across the finish line to advance to the third round. It was the third time she managed to defeat a top ten player in the tournament with more chances on the horizon.
It hasn’t been an easy series between the Ukrainian and the Spaniard and with the tournament being in Navarro’s home country, the pressure would weigh heavily on the world No.4.
Svitolina easily managed a victory against Alize Cornet Saturday getting two days off to prepare for the important match.
She lost their last meeting at Indian Wells where an injury caused Svitolina to stagger in defeat.
With last year being her best on clay, she’ll try to counter the balance scales and return the lead to her name.
The Spaniard jumped out to set obstacles in her opponent’s path; securing her service hold, then consolidating with a break.
Svitolina had a triple break in her end but nearly blew them until an error from Navarro blocked deuce from play.
A clean game with solid aggression allowed Svitolina to level the score through four. She showed a growing dominance against Navarro’s serve taking the fifth before rushing through her own service game for a 4-2 lead.
Plenty of response on the return game beat down Navarro who got into net front rallies with the Ukrainian only to lose due to accurate ball placement.
Svitolina served for the set as she bulldozed her way to keeping the Spaniard behind the baseline setting up shots way out of reach.
She contained her first set point attempt landing it long but inside where Suarez Navarro swung and missed bringing an end to 34 minutes of play.
Svitolina had the stronger second serve scoring 14 winners to Navarro’s six.
The 29-year-old showed a will to battle for control of the second set fighting every point with Svitolina to the point of deuce.
They went five breaks where on her fourth AD point attempt and seven and a half minutes of play, Navarro captured a much-needed win. She mirrored the start of the first set earning the break on Svitolina with the hope of controlling further on.
Svitolina followed her role and made it a 2-2 score. The players went on serve where the 29-year-old set the new pace with the Ukrainian in the next two.
An opportunity to break Svitolina came in the seventh game with success earning her first lead in the match.
A call for the trainer arrived during the break before new balls came to the world number four who would try to gain a break and keep Suarez Navarro in reach.
She gained a footing in the eighth but tried to bring her lob game into action only to watch it falter.
The Spaniard outplayed the fourth seed getting into a focused rally that gave her the AD point and a 5-3 lead.
A bad spill occurred in the next game as Suarez Navarro took a fall back before smashing an ace for her first.
Svitolina answered with three straight winners before a fightback from the Spaniard ended in defeat.
The Ukrainian was still on the edge of facing a third set with Suarez Navarro serving for the match.
Listening to words of encouragement from coach Andrew Bettles he stated that playing every single point and believing in herself was what had to be done in order to contain a straight sets win.
She forced the 29-year-old into extra frames earning a great hold in the tenth stating that she was ready to take on everything in her way.
The Spaniard pulled a big service hold out showing a tremendous push for every point getting the edge once more to force the world No.4 into a tight situation.
She handled things like a cake walk, blanking Suarez Navarro in the 12th to set up the tiebreak. The Spaniard got the scoring started with Svitolina answering the call.
A double fault handed Suarez Navarro a break which she built to open a gap against the Ukrainian.
Gaining a 6-3 lead, Suarez Navarro forced a shot that Svitolina sent wide to set up a pivotal third set after 61 minutes.
Both had numerous winners and unforced errors but the edge of first serve points was with the Spaniard who earned a shot to still win the match.
The final set saw Svitolina setting the tone of service holds forcing Suarez Navarro to answer her own game while trailing.
Though she had difficulties getting leveled with the world number four, the Spaniard had some inconsistencies with her offense that would require management as the set got closer to a conclusion.
The score remained deadlocked at four-all until Svitolina opened the door losing energy to get to some of Navarro’s shots.
The Spaniard had a 40-0 run, losing a point before an error by the Ukrainian ended the ninth with the 29-year-old back in position for success.
With cheers of “si se peude” coming before her serve for the match the Spaniard let it all soak in while Svitolina dealt with the nerves.
Bad beats were taking the world number four out of contention handing Suarez Navarro three match points.
Her first went long of the baseline before the Ukrainian landed a winning return leaving one left for the 29-year-old.
A five-shot rally saw Navarro’s return land wide that set up deuce and a chance for Svitolina to save the set.
A long rally ended with the Spaniard getting deep with the ball before scoring a cross-court shot.
Another wide drive blew the fourth match point for Navarro who delivered another to hand Svitolina her first AD point of the game.
The Spaniard saved the game for a third break but not before expressing her pleads to the crowd to keep their composure.
On Navarro’s fifth match point the rally turned very dramatic as the 29-year-old fell after making the return, getting up just in time to see the ball landing long of the baseline that gave her the massive win of the night ending 2 hours and 15 minutes.
What will surely rest on the mind of the Spaniard, the 29-year-old would get the rest of the night off to prepare for her round of 16 match that will pit her against Bernarda Pera or Johanna Konta.