For a quarter of an hour, Elina Svitolina served and served, and served again, tossing the ball into the sun, in a desperate bid to hold a game in the third set against Madison Keys.
The sixth-seeded Svitolina fended off five break points in game that went to deuce 11 times, contained 28 points, and was pivotal in a momentum-swinging 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win that earned her a place in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
At her first opportunity in the next game she broke the 17th-seeded Keys, runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open and a semifinalist or better at three of the last five majors. It was all one-way from then on.
“I was happy I could handle the pressure at 1-1 in the third set,” Svitolina said. “It was very hard because the sun was just burning my eyes when I was tossing the ball. Very happy I could win that game.”
Svitolina is trying to emulate what Caroline Wozniacki did here last year — coming to the season-opening major as winner of the season-ending WTA Finals and winning a breakthrough major title.
She’s 0-3 in Grand Slam quarterfinals to date, and next plays either U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka or No. 13 Anastasija Sevastova.
Apart from the second set, Keys didn’t quite find her range with her ground strokes and 34 unforced errors.
She dropped her first two service games in the match, and she missed very narrowly on some crucial points and wasn’t really able to break down Svitolina, particularly in that game that lasted more than 15 minutes.
Both players reached the quarterfinals here last year, but Keys had more success at the majors in 2018 when she progressed to the semifinals at the French and U.S. Opens.
In night matches later Monday, Serena Williams will continue her bid for an eighth Australian and Open-era record 24th singles major when she takes on No. 1-ranked Simona Halep, and six-time men’s winner Novak Djokovic is against Daniil Medvedev.