Carla Suarez Navarro got the best birthday present she could ever ask for at the US Open. For the first time since 2013, the Spaniard on her 30th birthday was stronger than Maria Sharapova who couldn’t overcome the deficit built up that resulted in a 6-4, 6-3 straight sets match at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center.
Her victory brought an end to Sharapova’s 23 match winning streak playing at night on the very court that brought her tournament to a close and Suarez Navarro back to the quarterfinals since 2013.
The two met four times with Sharapova winning the first that put them on clay. When it comes to preparations on the hard courts, both of them have a win against one another with the Russian winning two in Beijing and Brisbane in order.
With the Spaniard playing three straight three-setters and Sharapova not dropping any, it would be up to her to dictate with the comfort of being on the big stage.
Sharapova put together a serve to love opportunity on Suarez Navarro but committed her first double fault before getting the game done. The 30th seed tried to get her to serve into shape but double faulted giving Sharapova two break points.
She saved both to force deuce and contained the AD point to get the hold in the second. Sharapova let a service hold get away from her with a second double fault that helped along the Spaniard’s first to break. She added it with a hold in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead.
Nerves still sat with the World No. 22 who had back to back double faults on serve in the fifth. Sharapova made three straight as it was clear that she struggled to find her rhythm. Despite getting her fourth across the court, a return from her landed just long of the baseline making it a three-game deficit.
Suarez Navarro let up enough on her shots to give the Russian a break chance. She eventually got it on a break of deuce to cut the margin down to a pair.
Unwilling to give Sharapova a chance to regroup on her service, Suarez-Navarro nailed down big winners on the returns to take another step in the right way with her a game down of the set.
The Spaniard couldn’t pull it together to close it out committing two double faults in the eighth that gave her opponent chances to completely turn it around.
Although recording a sixth double fault of the match, the 31-year-old managed to hold bringing the margin down to a game which left Suarez-Navarro one chance to clinch a lead on the Russian.
She quickly faced a push from Sharapova who got into a spot where her strengths grew open a 30-0 run but got into trouble with unforced errors that set up the birthday girl with set point. She got it on a big forehand from the Russian that landed wide for her 18th of the set that brought a close of 43 minutes.
When the second set got underway, the Russian was still in trouble making two unforced errors that brought her up to 20 in the match.
It was again enough momentum to Suarez Navarro who broke in the first game. She fought back from a short deficit but a double fault from the Spaniard evened Sharapova in the second. It was the assist she needed to hold in the third that put the 30-year-old on notice.
Suarez-Navarro answered with an amazing ending to the fourth where she played the final rally chasing the ball against the 22nd seed before getting an edge on where her opponent was to get one over her and level the score again.
She earned a good break that saw Sharapova double-faulting for the first time in the set on deuce.
There was no time to recover from it, which Suarez-Navarro took advantage of. Sharapova tried to break back but holding it together on deuce was just not coming for the 31-year-old who found herself on the brink of falling deep.
A hold in the seventh was essential for the Russian who achieved a chance to stay alive in order to challenge for a deciding set.
Suarez-Navarro held in the eight with an intention to put all the pressure on Sharapova to stumble with a 5-3 hold. The Russian tried make good on holding back the Spaniard who climbed back two break points.
She double-faulted again to put deuce into play for the 30th seed who erred on a breaking serve from Sharapova. She gave Suarez-Navarro a second chance answering well on running the ball down until a return from the 31-year-old fell long to serve up match point. It was the only one she needed to bring a nice finish to her night that clinched a spot in the last eight after 91 minutes.
“It’s totally different for me but I’m happy that I played a really good match,” she said to ESPN’s Renae Stubbs after the match. She’ll hope for more as she faces 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys in a chance to make her first semifinal in New York.