Rome Masters: Gavrilova holds on to win marathon match
A drama filled night ends in the closest finish ever.
Daria Gavrilova went the distance against Garbine Muguruza, who, like the Australian, showed signs of frustration and fatigue but won a marathon match 7-5, 2-6, 6-7(6) on Corte Centrale on the grounds of Foro Italico. 241 points were played between the two stars in what was the longest match of the tournament this year.
The two were supposed to meet earlier this season but a pass by the Spaniard gave Gavrilova a spot in the semifinals at Brisbane. With a spot in the round of 16 up for grabs, the world number three was prepared to do whatever it took to overpower the Australian in her quest to return to the semis and beyond in the Italian capital. With time to rest since her run at Madrid, the 24-year-old showed herself ready to compete for a chance at her first title prior to Roland Garros.
Both players started well, holding serve until the sixth game when the Australian broke the Spaniard to take a 4-2 lead. Muguruza responded with a strong break of Gavrilova reeling her back in after seven with one to go for the tie. She did indeed get the game, holding off a break chance from the Australian to level things up. Despite losing the two-game lead, Gavrilova moved ahead in the ninth with the chance to force a break and close out the set.
Much like the fifth game, the fight for the lead in the 11th was a tug of war between the two. Gavrilova’s shot in the rally went long of the baseline, giving the 24-year-old the 6-5 lead with a service break in her hand. She rallied to 40-0 but gave two points away to her opponent. It was the last she’d see as Muguruza converted set point to end the opening set in 67 minutes.
Gavrilova got a huge boost in the second set, taking her through the first three games without coming on the receiving end of a winner. Frustration raged out from Muguruza during the break as she smashed her fist down a few times before going back out to avoid gifting the Australian a double break. She responded with a serve to love, letting her anger reflect in her power shots, beating Gavrilova to get on the board.
In her effort to get back to within a game, Muguruza went the distance against Gavrilova who wouldn’t give in. However, after 20 points and ten minutes played, the Aussie came out victorious, saving seven break points throughout. It was a heavy hit to the third seed who lost all hopes of making a comeback and double-faulted to end things in 46 minutes with a pivotal third set now forced to be played. 16 unforced errors were committed by Muguruza who was clearly rattled in the late stages of the set.
Coach Sam Sumyk then came out to speak with Muguruza who was silent as she tried to find out if anything outside of her game was wrong. The 24-year-old used the advice to break in the opening game.
She built upon her hold in the second and racked up a strong 4-0 run on Gavrilova who was struggling to get into the set at all. She did in the fifth with a much-needed hold. A double fault from the third seed then made it a second straight game for the Aussie who slowly began to regain control of the set.
The match was drastically turning in favor of Gavrilova who showcased a lot of power on serve to earn a third straight game. She completed the comeback, winning her fourth straight game. A fifth consecutive game was a huge accomplishment for Gavrilova who continued to see very little in response to her aggressive yet focused style of tennis.
Muguruza somehow pulled things together in the tenth game, smashing shots away from Gavrilova to save the match and push forward. The turnaround occurred one more time with Muguruza taking her serve very seriously, holding her opponent to just one point in her next service game.
Both used everything they had left in the 12th to rip the ball apart during the opening rally that went to Gavrilova on a smash. Muguruza gained two consecutive points waiting for her opponent to commit errors, keeping her game simple. The smallest mistakes were costly for both with the game eventually going to deuce as Muguruza blew match point by double-faulting. Gavrilova took the first two points in the tie-break before the third seed got on the board.
She leveled the score at two-all and gained a foothold, taking a 4-2 lead. It didn’t last long as two balls wide from Muguruza got the Australian even at four all. It remained neck and neck until a shot at a second match point for Muguruza came to light. A rally went into motion with both very focused as Muguruza went for a forehand winner, the ball landing just wide to keep them going at six apiece.
After three hours and eight minutes, things finally fell into place for Gavrilova to conclude a long night of tennis. Although the numbers are staggering for both players, the fewer unforced errors (41-65) was a huge factor in the final stages of the match, giving the 24-year-old Aussie her fourth top five career win.