Entering the 2013 Australian Open, Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova found herself in the unfamiliar territory of being unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2003.
But it has not stopped the two-time grand slam champion from winning her way into the not-so-unfamiliar second week in Melbourne, beating Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 4-6 6-3 in a two hour and 10 minute third round clash on Show Court Two on Saturday.
After missing the second half of the 2012 with a knee injury, Kuznetsova, who has a career-high ranking of 2, is now ranked 75. The 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open champion is competing in her 12th consecutive Australian Open and aiming to emulate and better quarter-final runs in 2005 and 2009.
Suarez Navarro, ranked 33, was a tricky opponent. She had upset world No. 6 Sara Errani in the first round and is also a former Australian Open quarter-finalist, from her main draw debut in 2009.
Unforced errors hurt the Spaniard early, helping Kuznetsova rush to a 5-1 lead.
Suarez Navarro got one break back, but Kuznetsova took the set by breaking straight back, wrapping it up 6-2 in 38 minutes.
Kuznetsova was dominant in the opening set, hitting 13 winners to five and winning 80% of points on her first serve.
Her game went off the boil early in the second set, with unforced errors beginning to flow off her racquet and the winners disappearing.
Suarez Navarro capitalised, getting the early break and opening up a 4-2 lead.
Kuznetsova fought back, breaking the Suarez Navarro serve to love in the eighth game to even the match at 4-all.
Suarez Navarro responded by breaking straight back and taking the set 6-4 in 42 minutes to push the match into a third and deciding set.
Things were not looking good for Kuznetsova when she went down an early break in the final set, but the Russian lifted, breaking back and winning a run of 10 consecutive points to open up a 4-2 lead.
The twists and turns in this match were not over yet, with the two players trading breaks until Kuznetsova served for the match at 5-3.
Suarez Navarro had two break point opportunities, but in a long game, Kuznetsova eventually served it out 6-3 on her third match point.
Kuznetsova will now face Danish No. 10 seed Caroline Wozniaki or Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko in the fourth round.