Gavrilova gets past local favorite Zarazúa in Acapulco

No.3 seed Daria Gavrilova advanced to the quarterfinals of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on Wednesday, overcoming home crowd heroine Renata Zarazúa, 7-5, 6-3.
"She’s a tough player," Gavrilova said after the match, regarding Zarazúa. "She had nothing to lose today, and she was fighting until the end."
The 24-year-old Australian survived a topsy-turvy opening round against Madison Brengle, and had similar ups and downs in the first set against the Mexican wild card before quelling the run of Zarazúa in one hour and 36 minutes.
The 20-year-old Zarazúa has much to be proud of, as the World No. 253 posted an excellent performance this week by eliminating Kristyna Pliskova in the first round before demonstrating exceptional skills in her second-round encounter with the World No. 26.
Gavrilova started the match incredibly well, using her strong forehand to pick apart the Zarazúa game. The Mexican felt pressured to go for broke, and hit too many unforced errors at the outset -- eight alone in the first three games.
The Australian raced to a 4-1 lead, and it appeared that it would be a quick day at the office for the third seed. But midway through the set, Zarazúa became sturdier on her groundstrokes, and Gavrilova began to falter on serve.
Serving at 4-2, Gavrilova hit three double faults in the game and was quickly broken; it would be a problem which would plague her for the remainder of the match, and made the encounter much more difficult than it needed to be.
But Zarazúa was starting to execute the impressive combination of power and defense which made her a standout in these opening matches of the tournament. The Mexican began to routinely extend the points beyond what Gavrilova expected, and after more unforced errors from the Australian, Zarazúa served for the opening set at 5-4 following a four-game run.
But Gavrilova used her experience when it mattered most at the end of the set, aggressively going for the lines and making those shots more often than not. The Australian broke back for 5-5, and then broke Zarazúa at 6-5 with another strong forehand, to clinch the first set.
Gavrilova raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set, extending her run of games to seven straight before Zarazúa could get on the board. But again, the Gavrilova serve started to falter when she was close to the finish line, and served three double faults in a single game for the second time in the match, letting Zarazúa claim one break back.
Still, the Australian steadied herself enough to obtain a chance to serve for the match at 5-3 in the second set. But, with the excited crowd behind her, Zarazúa gave everything she had in the final game. Gavrilova served her eleventh and twelfth double faults of the match to squander her first two match points, and Zarazúa held a break point to get back on serve.
It took Gavrilova five tries to get over the line, but she shored up her serve when necessary, and finally claimed victory when a crosscourt forehand forced a final error from the up-and-coming Mexican.
Gavrilova planned on relaxing for the rest of the day, after the heat of the encounter. "I'll jump in the ice baths, probably have a chill afternoon, not do too much," she said. "Probably stay out of the sun."
Top seed and reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens fended off a difficult challenge by Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus and propelled herself into the quarterfinals of the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL presentado por HSBC on Wednesday, ultimately prevailing 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-0.
Stephens had to save a match point in the second-set tiebreak before claiming victory in a grueling two hours and 26 minutes, and thus denying the left-hander from the Netherlands her first Top 20 win in over six years.
"Playing a lefty is always tricky," Stephens told the press after the match. "I tend to play a lot of three-setters with lefties, so I knew it was going to be a battle, obviously."
"But I am happy," the No.1 seed continued. "I was match point down, and I was able to come back and fight. For not having played for a while, since Australia, it’s good progress."
The American, who won this title two years ago, now finds herself on a two-match winning streak after not having won a match between her Grand Slam triumph in New York and this week.
The players exchanged breaks at the start of the match, as both combatants were feeling out each other’s games with extended rallies. But after the first two games, each player was able to hold serve up to 5-5 in the set.
At the end of the set, though, it surprisingly was the American who blinked first, as she had not faced a break point since the very first game. But a Stephens backhand went long to give Rus a break point, which she grasped after a Stephens forehand went just wide after another lengthy rally.
The Dutchwoman took advantage of her chance, holding on her first set point when Stephens misfired long on another backhand. Each player had six winners in the first set, but Stephens had two more unforced errors than Rus, and that made the difference down the stretch in the opening frame.
The second set was totally up for grabs. Stephens fended off three break points in the opening game, before breaking Rus in the next game for a 2-0 lead. But consecutive forehand errors by the American allowed Rus to get back on serve in the very next game.
Both players were now cracking their service returns exceptionally well, and when the dust settled after the next five games, Rus was up a break at 5-4, and would serve for the match. But the Dutch qualifier could not hold on, and a strong forehand by Stephens forced Rus into an error, and put the set back at 5-5.
Stephens had a set point at 6-5, but sent a backhand wide, and the women advanced to the tiebreak two points later. Strong defense by Rus gave her the early advantage, and she jumped to a 4-1 lead. Exceptional backhands by the US Open champion knotted the tiebreak at 5-5, but a forehand winner by Rus right on the sideline gave the qualifier a match point at 6-5.
But the championship experience of Stephens paid off on her two service points. A forehand winner pulled the tiebreak to 6-6, and after the change of ends, a solid serve set up another winning point, which led to a second set point for the American. Rus faltered with a rally forehand into the net, and suddenly the match was even at one set apiece.
After that marathon set, the wind went out of the Dutchwoman's sails, and she could only win seven points in the decider as Stephens cruised to the final-set demolition. The No.1 seed finished the match with 20 winners to 16 for the Dutch qualifier, and Rus ended up with two more unforced errors than the American.
Stephens advances to her first quarterfinal since her title run at the US Open, where she will face Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele, who beat Greece's Maria Sakkari, 6-3 6-4.
Defending champion Lesia Tsurenko leads a group of other early winners today, as the No.7 seed from Ukraine ousted Australian Arina Rodionova, 6-3, 6-1. In other results, Paraguay's Veronica Cepede Royg upset 5th-seeded Romania Irina-Camelia Begu, 7-6(3), 6-1, and No.3 seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia defeated Mexican Renata Zarazúa, 7-5, 6-3.