In a sport that can be swayed so easily by momentum swings and bursts of confidence, sometimes all a tennis player needs is a little bit of luck.
Fortunately for world No.19 Ekaterina Makarova, luck is exactly what she got after downing French world No.11 Marion Bartoli 6-7(4) 6-3 6-4 in the third round of Australian Open 2013 on Friday.
Makarova found herself up 5-0 in the third set before Bartoli mounted a memorable comeback, much to the distress of her Russian opponent. But at 5-4 with Bartoli serving, a crucial double fault at 30-30, followed by a poor shank gifted Makarova the win.
The 19th seed hit 51 winners for the match and only 32 unforced errors, a sound result of her daring on-court play and aggressive style.
The win puts Makarova into the fourth round, now one win away from her career-best result at Melbourne Park after reaching the quarterfinals in 2012.
It was a case of momentum swings and missed opportunities in the opening set as players struggled to capitalise on big points.
Makarova had the early advantage racing to a 3-0 lead in a matter of minutes aided by her seven winners and minimal unforced errors. The Russian would regularly return the ball deep – only inches away from the baseline – with Bartoli unable to set her feet, regularly sending the ball flush into the net.
But Bartoli rallied. The Frenchwoman used her unorthodox two-handed groundstrokes to hit the ball at acute angles – often unreachable – and clawed her way back. Seventy-eight minutes after the opening serve and Bartoli eventually had the opener wrapped up, 7-4 in the tiebreak, saving three Marakova set points en route.
But the thrill of taking the first set was quickly diminished as Bartoli’s game fell apart, not even her over-sized energy drink consumed at the change of ends able to spur her forwards.
The Frenchwoman did herself no favours in the second set, dropping her serve in the first and seventh game magnified by her endless double faults.
Makarova was aggressive off the return, aiming boldly for the sidelines and making Bartoli work hard around the court. Her boldness paid dividends, the Russian taking the second set 6-3.
When Marakova found herself up 5-0 in the deciding set, journalists everywhere were ready to pencil in the headline “Marakova downs Bartoli”. But the Frenchwoman fought back, yet again.
At 5-4 and Bartoli serving, Makarova was evidently upset with her inability to close the match. Bartoli looked unstoppable, both via her booming groundstrokes and upbeat body language between points.
But at 30-30, a double fault handed Makarova her fourth match point, and a subsequent shank from the Frenchwoman shot the Russian into the fourth round.
Makarova will play German fifth seed Angelique Kerber in the fourth round on Sunday.