WTA Cincinnati: Ekaterina Makarova overcomes nerves and cramps; defeats third seed Angelique Kerber

Ekaterina Makarova and Angelique Kerber provided the fans a thriller to watch at the Western and Southern Open as the Russian overcame cramps to triumph in three tough sets, saving a match point in the process.

WTA Cincinnati: Ekaterina Makarova overcomes nerves and cramps; defeats third seed Angelique Kerber
Ekaterina Makarova celebrates her huge victory | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Ekaterina Makarova
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Angelique Kerber

The fans at the Western and Southern Open witnessed a thriller being played in the second round as former world number one Angelique Kerber seemed to have found her best tennis once again, but the unseeded in-form player Ekaterina Makarova was just too strong for the third seed as she saved a match point to triumph in this drama-filled entertaining match.

Makarova won the first set 6-4 despite a late wobble which almost saw Kerber close a three-game deficit, but the German produced the perfect reply when she strolled to seal the second set 6-1 having been dominant throughout the rallies. The final set was full of momentum shifts as Kerber powered herself to an early 2-0 lead before Makarova rattled five straight games to lead 5-2.

Both players during a changeover | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Both players during a changeover | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The world number three continued fighting despite the huge deficit, eventually sending the match into a final set tie-break. Makarova was determined to clinch her eighth Top 10 victory of the year, and her second over Kerber, as she came from 0-3 and 3-5 deficits in the tiebreak to capitalize on her eighth match point, saving one of Kerber’s in the process.

Makarova suffers huge scare but still eventually closes out the first set 6-4

After an exchange of service holds to start the match with, it was the in-form player who made the first breakthrough in the match as Makarova exploited the vulnerable second serves of Kerber, jumping out to an early lead. With some powerful serves, the Russian easily consolidated the break as she held her serve to love, opening a 3-1 lead to kick things off.

The world number three had the golden opportunity to break back in the sixth game when she earned two break points but Makarova was just too solid on her serve as she held firm to prevail in the marathon 14-point game, narrowly holding onto her serve.

Another lengthy game followed as this time it was Kerber who had to save break points, but it was just fourth-time lucky for the world number 39 as she opened a formidable 5-2 lead, looking to close out the set in a hurry.

However, Kerber showed her intentions to produce an improbable comeback when she won eight of the next 11 points to lessen the deficit to just one solitary game. She almost returned level after earning a break point in the tenth game, but Makarova overcame her nerves to finally close out the first set 6-4 after 42 minutes of play.

Ekaterina Makarova in action | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Ekaterina Makarova in action | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Kerber fights back and serves a breadstick

The start of the second set saw Kerber up her level of play and was hitting her groundstrokes with more precision and confidence. This allowed her to easily hold her serve in the opening game, before a couple of unforced errors by Makarova helped her to capture the early break for a comfortable lead.

Kerber continued to stroll through the second set, playing some of her best tennis and serving impressively to consolidate the break for a three-game advantage. The German had the golden opportunity to extend her lead but a powerful forehand down-the-line winner by Makarova cleared the path for her to hold her serve and finally get onto the scoreboard in the second set.

The Russian then gained some momentum and confidence, allowing her to earn three break back points in the next game all of a sudden. Nevertheless, some inspired play from the former world number one allowed her to narrowly hold onto her service game for a 4-1 lead.

Makarova found herself in deep trouble when she wasted a couple of game points to allow Kerber to break serve for the second time in the set, earning the perfect chance to serve out the set. Not disappointing her fans, the German continued to excel in her service games to seal the second set with a dominant scoreline of 6-1.

Angelique Kerber in action | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Angelique Kerber in action | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Deadlocked after twelve games in the final set

Carrying over the momentum into the final set, Kerber was just too good as she broke serve in the opening game of the decider to take the early lead, looking poised for the confidence-boosting victory.

Without a hitch, the German comfortably consolidated the break with a love service hold for a 2-0 lead. However, that was when there was a huge momentum shift as Makarova produced some incredible play to produce the comeback. Firstly, she got herself onto the scoreboard before saving two game points to break back out of nowhere, leveling the scores at 2-2.

Dictating play over a faltering Kerber, Makarova won her fifth consecutive as she powered herself to a formidable 5-2 lead despite looking down-and-out just 20 minutes ago. Unexpectedly, there was more to the plot as Kerber rattled three games of her own, producing some incredible winners after saving two match points along the way.

Angelique Kerber walks towards her chair during a changeover | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Angelique Kerber walks towards her chair during a changeover | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

Makarova also called for a medical time-out at 5-4 up as she was visibly struggling a little with her movement, and the trainer stated the reason as “Muscle Tightness in Upper Leg” as the trainer mentioned to the Russian that she is unable to treat her for cramps. After an exchange of comfortable service holds, the match was brought into a final set tiebreak to decide its winner.

Tiebreak thriller: Makarova closes it out eventually

Makarova dug herself a 0-3 deficit to start the tiebreak with as three consecutive unforced errors looked to prove costly. Nevertheless, the determined Russian immediately returned level as she kept herself in contention for the win.

Kerber was just two points away from the win when she opened up a 5-3 lead, but yet again she was unable to clinch the crucial points as three consecutive powerful forehands helped Makarova this time to earn her third match point. Kerber was just so solid when the pressure weighed on her, surviving a physically-draining point to save match point and level the scores at 6-6, leaving Makarova lying on the court in tears while suffering from serious cramps.

The umpire goes down from her chair to check on Makarova, who fell onto the ground in tears at 6-6 | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
The umpire goes down from her chair to check on Makarova, who fell onto the ground in tears at 6-6 | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Nevertheless, the Russian continued to play through the injury as the trainer was not allowed on the court at that moment. Kerber earned a match point after leading 8-7, but she was unable to convert as she was too passive, not being the more aggressive of the two. Kerber went on to save more match points and the match seemed to be never-ending.

However, Makarova was finally eighth time lucky when being 12-11 up as she played some impressive baseline tennis which saw her move Kerber all around the court with her powerful groundstrokes, eventually closing the point out with a net winner, sealing the win after an incredible marathon lasting 2 hours and 41 minutes.

Ekaterina Makarova celebrates her emotional win | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
Ekaterina Makarova celebrates her emotional win | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America