Svetlana Kuznetsova managed to overcome momentum shifts and an erratic Kristina Mladenovic in three sets at the Aegon International in Eastbourne as she produced some excellent tennis to seal a spot in the quarterfinals of the rain-plagued tournament.
Kuznetsova steals the first set with pivotal break of serve in the opening game
Mladenovic had a very slow start to the match as she failed to put in her usual strong and precise serves, throwing in a double fault to see her get broken in the opening game. Kuznetsova took advantage of the slow start and had a totally different start as compared to her previous matches, coming into the match firing after easily consolidating the break to love and extended her lead to two games. As the match progressed, Mladenovic slowly got herself into the match as she managed to get to deuce in Kuznetsova’s service game in the fourth game.
However, the Frenchwoman was unable to earn a break point and allowed the Russian to hold serve narrowly. Both players were very solid on their serves in the latter stages as neither of them was able to make a breakthrough. The next break point only surfaced in the seventh game as Mladenovic was once again inconsistent on her serve, allowing Kuznetsova to have the golden opportunity to extend her lead. The Russian’s failure to convert the break point saw Mladenovic narrowly hold her serve and keep the scores close, and earned her first break point of the match in the next game. However, the experienced veteran held her nerves and eventually placed herself just one game away from winning the first set. Ultimately, the Russian comfortably held her serve while serving for the set and clinched it with a 6-4 scoreline after just 35 minutes of play.
Mladenovic fights straight back
Determined to send the match into a decider, Mladenovic had the perfect start to the second set as she clinched eight of the first twelve points to get the first break of serve in the set and take the early lead. Nevertheless, Kuznetsova produced an immediate reply when she broke straight back to return level on serve, looking to close out the win in straight sets. However, it was just all Mladenovic from then on as she upped the level of her play, cruising through the second set. The Frenchwoman was able to hit consistent and strong first serves in, and Kuznetsova was having troubles handling the return as Mladenovic eventually clinched the second set with a dominating scoreline of 6-2.
Kuznetsova regains the momentum and earns the win
Fortunately for the Russian, her experience allowed her to regain the momentum as soon as possible after she clinched the break in the opening game, with Mladenovic failing to keep her first serve percentage high. Her woes continued when she failed to convert a break point in the second game as Kuznetsova held her nerves to consolidate the break and open up a 2-0 lead. The Frenchwoman then held her serve to love and got herself onto the scoreboard in the final set and looked to have regained the rhythm on her serve.
After an exchange of service holds, Kuznetsova made the next breakthrough as she looked certain for the victory, earning a double break advantage in the deciding set. The Russian continued to stroll through the set as she soon found herself just one game away from clinching the win, coming through a tough service game to do so. An improbable comeback looked to be on the cards as Mladenovic got one of the breaks back to lessen the deficit, despite Kuznetsova owning a 30-0 lead in the game. Nevertheless, the Russian was not affected as she did not allow herself to get pegged back on the scoreboard, making an immediate reply to seal the victory after 1 hour and 44 minutes, exacting revenge for her loss in Madrid.