Two Russian veterans, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva, as well as their compatriot and top seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, secured their quarter-final spots at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Wednesday, but Jelena Ostapenko, the No seed, was upset by qualifier Jaqueline Cristian in straight sets.
We both were fighting for every point, trying to hang in there. I think I was able to play some good tennis when it mattered, and I’m happy with the win of course. Vera Zvonareva
Zvonareva had the biggest tussle creating an upset herself, coming back from a set down to beat the No 3 seed Fiona Ferro from France, 6-7(8) 7-5 7-6(2) after 3 hours and 10 minutes in the longest match of the tournament’s history.
“We both were fighting for every point, trying to hang in there,” the former Wimbledon and US Open finalist said after the match. “I think I was able to play some good tennis when it mattered, and I’m happy with the win of course.”
Zvonareva earned the day’s most dramatic win, despite being unable to take advantage of a set point in the first tiebreak, but she pulled away in the decisive breaker.
Shrugging off missed opportunities to serve out the first and second sets, the two-time Grand Slam runner-up levelled the contest with Ferro, and played a dominant tiebreak to reach her first WTA quarterfinal since 2019 at this very tournament.
The former World No 2 gave birth to daughter Evelyn in 2016, and is playing doubles with another tour mother, Elena Vesnina.
Zvonareva earned an early break in the opener and held her serve for 5-3 with three consecutive aces, but she double-faulted while serving for the set at 5-4, and Ferro pulled the break back, sending it into the tiebreak.
The Russian held a set point at 6-5 in the breaker, but Ferro won the next two to earn herself a set point at 7-6 and converted when Zvonareva sent a backhand long.
The Frenchwoman fell behind in the second, but broke back with a backhand return winner, as Zvonareva was serving at 5-3 before the Russian converted her 3rd set point on return, striking 16 winners to 6 unforced errors to level.
The 36-year old Zvonareva earned an early break to open up a 2-0 lead in the third set, but again Ferro broke straight back, and it went on serve in the next games en route to the deciding tiebreak in which the Russian earned 2 mini-breaks to win the longest match in the tournament history.
Compatriot Kuznetsova, the 4th seed, secured her first WTA quarter-final in 12 months, easing past 19-year old Wang Xinyu, 6-1 7-5, rather more comfortably.
She followed a pair of titanic 3-setters on Sibur Arena, holding off a late challenge from the Chinese qualifier to advance in 78 minutes.
The former World No 2 was undeniably derailed by the tour’s COVID-19 lockdown, and only began showing signs of her pre-pandemic form at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last week.
The teenage Chinese acquitted herself better as the match wore on, rallying from a set and 3-0 down, converting her 4th break point of a long 5th game, and broke Kuznetsova again as she served for the match.
Experience ultimately favoured the 35-year old 2-time Grand Slam champion, who out-rallied Wang to draw a final forehand unforced error and edge over the finish line.
Kuznetsova closed the high-quality match with solid statistics, striking 12 winners to 11 unforced errors and while Wang had more, with 25 winners and 23 errors of her own, the No 4 seed proved more clutch on key points, converting 6 of 9 break point opportunities.
Through to her first WTA quarter-final since she reached the semis in Doha last year, the Russian reeled off 9 of of the first 10 games to build up a 6-1 3-0 lead before Wang rallied herself, but 2 consecutive double-faults as she served to stay in the match at 6-5 help hand Kuznetsova the match.
She takes on Cristian in the quarter-finals, after the Romanian qualifier pulled off the other upset of the day when she defeated 6th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3 7-6(9), in an hour and 59 minutes.
Seeking her best-ever showing at a WTA event, Cristian faltered and dropped serve in the first game of the match, but that was the qualifier’s lone mis-step in the opening frame as she broke Ostapenko twice to capture the set.
Cristian had a chance to serve out the match at 6-5 in the second, where she held her first match point, but thunderous forehands by the power-hitting Ostapenko allowed the former World No 5 to erase that chance,.
The 2017 French Open champion from Latvia eventually broke serve to set up a crucial tiebreak in which she squandered a set point.
It was a topsy-turvy breaker that saw Cristian lead 3-1 before Ostapenko reeled off 5 straight points to reach 5-3, and then the Romanian took 3 points in a row to reach 6-5 and a 2nd match point.
More aggressive play from Ostapenko staved it off, as well 2 more at 7-6 and 8-7, and although the No 6 seed grabbed a set point of her own at 9-8, Cristian pulled her to 9-9 and claimed the final 3 points of the tiebreak to collect a signature win.
Alexandrova, the current World No 33, defeated Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic, 6-3 6-4, in a 73-minute match.
The flat, powerful shots of the top seed garnered her 19 winners on the day, and though she also fired 17 unforced errors, it was a ratio which well outpaced her opponent’s 13 unforced errors and only 5 winners in the affair.
The top seed charged to a 5-1 lead in the opening set, and even a late break by Martincova to pull it back to 5-3 did not truly throw off Alexandrova’s momentum as she broke again to clinch the one-set lead.
A run of 4 straight service breaks in the second was halted by Alexandrova with a hold for 5-4, and she used that to her advantage, breaking Martincova for the third time in a row to polish off the victory.
In the opening match of the day, the first round was completed with local qualifier Anastasia Gasanova’s 6-2 6-7(6) 7-5 victory over Katarina Zavatska from Ukraine after 3 hours 4 minutes, which set a new record for the longest match in the event’s history, until Zvonareva and Ferro finished their barnburner in the next match on court.
Gasanova will now take on her compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round and the winner of will face Zvonareva in what is already guaranteed to be an all-Russian quarter-final match.
Gasanova stole headlines earlier in the season when she scored the biggest win of her young career over former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova in Abu Dhabi.