No.1 seed and reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens saved a match point before beating Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus 5-7 7-6(6) 6-0 and reached the quarterfinals of the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL presentado por HSBC. "Playing a lefty is always tricky," said Stephens, owning a 13-5 record against left-hander opponents.
"I tend to play a lot of three-setters with lefties, so I knew it was going to be a battle, obviously." The American lost a crucial break in the end of the first set as her backhand went long and Rus converted he first chance as Stephens, who committed two more unforced errors, misfired long on another backhand.
In the second, Stephens gained a 2-0 lead bur Rus was able to put the match back on level terms. The American had a set point at 6-5, but sent a backhand wide. In the tiebreak, Rus went just one point way from the third top 20 win in her career but the experience of Stephens paid off on her two service points.
Stephens, who's 53-36 in the deciders, could only win seven points in the decider, and finished the match with 20 winners to 16 and two less unforced errors The American will face Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele, who beat Greece's Maria Sakkari 6-3 6-4.
The Swiss leads 3-1 in the head to heads, and won the last two clashes in 2013 after two battles fulls of ups and downs that featured 66 breakpoints and 26 breaks combined. No.3 seed Daria Gavrilova survived a hard-fought challenge from Mexican wild card Renata Zarazúa.
"She’s a tough player," said Gavrilova, who clinched a 7-5 6-3 win. The Mexican committed eight unforced errors in the opening three games as the Australian buit a 4-1 lead. But she gifted Zarazúa a break back with three double faults in the same game.
The Mexican won four games in a row and served for the set at 5-4 but Gavrilova used her experience and her strong forehand to clinch the first set. The second set followed almost the same pattern. The No.3 seed raced to 4-0 but, for the second time in the match, she gave away a break back double-faulting three times in the same game.
Still, the Australian steadied herself enough to obtain a chance to serve for the match at 5-3. Two further double faults, the eleventh and twelfth of the match, brought her to squander a couple of match points, but she eventually claimed victory when a crosscourt forehand forced a final error from the up-and-coming Mexican.
Gavrilova will meet for the first time Veronica Cepede-Royg. Defending champion Lesia Tsurenko, who won the title last year without dropping a set, will meet last year's opponent in the final, Kiki Mladenovic. The Ukrainian easily dismissed Arina Rodionova 6-3 6-1 winning six of eight close games and sealing six breaks from seven looks.
Kiki Mladenovic had a tougher feat in beating Beatriz Haddad Maia 3-6 6-3 7-5. After winning the first set, Tsurenko lost effectiveness on serve while Mladenovic built a 4-1 lead in the third set. The Frenchwoman served for the match at 5-4, missed three match points but managed to seal the win.
She will search for her second victory in five meetings. Rebecca Peterson upset the 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig, unable to finish the point quickly, 6-1 6-4. The Swede qualifier, ranked No.139, broke Puig in the ninth game of the second set and went on to serve out the match.
In her fourth WTA quarter-final, Peterson will now face Shuai Zhang who beat her in the semifinals in Honolulu last season. The Chinese won over Jil Teichmann 7-6 6-4 in 87 minutes.