Saving a match point and converting on her eighth match point, Ekaterina Makarova beat Angelique Kerber, 6-4 1-6 7-6(11), coming through in a quite astonishing third set tiebreak that I don’t think will be matched for drama all year. I’m still trying to get my head around the end of that match, which was truly baffling. Let’s give it a go…
Makarova came into this match having won eight of her last nine matches and the confidence was oozing – at the start of the match, she played some great tennis in the key moments and won two long deuce games to hold to 5-2. Kerber was spraying the ball a tad, but it was encouraging to see her go after her shots, in particular the forehand down-the-line.
Makarova failed to serve out the first set at *5-2 and then struggled again at *5-4. Makarova saved a break point with Kerber going long and eventually regained her composure to win the opener, 6-4. While Kerber ended up losing the first set, she built on the momentum from the comeback and sailed through the second set, taking it 6-1.
Just like after the first set, Makarova took an extended bathroom break. For a time it didn’t help to change the momentum as Kerber quickly went up 2-0 in the decider, winning five straight games. Makarova became increasingly irate – however with repeated calls of “davai, davai, davai”, she managed to get herself going and suddenly become a contender again in this match. Kerber looked to be in control but seemed to lose a bit of focus as an aggressive, Makarova, with her set 1 level returning, reeled off five straight games of her own to lead 5-2 in the third set.
As Makarova’s position in the match swung from underdog to favourite, suddenly the free-flowing play evaporated and she began to overforce with the finish line in sight. Serving at *5-3, Makarova was forced to save three break points before chalking up two match points, the first of which she tamely double faulted on. Kerber forced a couple more break points and finally converted on her fifth break point of the game to keep the match alive.
Makarova called for the physio after being broken, which was a questionable move with Kerber to serve at *4-5 – I always thought you could only call a MTO before you are about to serve? Makarova had a leg complaint and generally, just seemed to be struggling with the conditions. I’m pleased to say that Kerber managed to hold on the resumption and the match ebbed into a deserved third set tiebreak.
How to sum up the third set tiebreak… fhfewhuwquiwruhuhafuhfshafshufus!
Kerber looked to be on top at the start as she cut out the errors and stayed solid from the baseline. However, 3-0 quickly became 3-3 with the German player throwing in a double fault when seemingly in control. Kerber still had the ascendancy at 5-3, but then suddenly, Makarova roared back into action with a series of stunning forehands.
Out of nowhere, Makarova set up her third match point – and so prevailed, one of the points of the year. I have no idea how Kerber kept that alive.
Makarova was on the floor at 6-6 and seemed to be in a great deal of distress. After the supervisor warned her that she had to keep on going and would face a time penalty, she got up and returned on the next point at 6-6 with an incredible forehand winner… wow!
On the 4th match point at 7-6 Makarova was going for it, yet Kerber was once again resolute in defence and absolutely rock-solid from the baseline.
Kerber earnt her first match point at 8-7 in what would be her lone match point – Makarova threw in a no-pace serve that was surprisingly effective and set up a hefty forehand.
Match points five and six went by as Kerber continued to produce some exquisite defence.
But still, Makarova kept bringing up match point opportunities. On the 7th, Kerber produced an intelligent serve out wide. Then I wondered if it would finally break Kerber’s way but a poor shot long saw Makarova with an eighth match point… and this time she converted!
Kerber gave a very brief handshake and to be honest, I don’t blame her for feeling those emotions after everything that happened in that third set. I felt there were some positive signs from Kerber in this match as she did look to go after her shots, more so than at many times during the year. Kerber just seemed to lose her focus at key moments in the match. Her match point saves though were brilliant.
This was quite a performance from Makarova and I mean that in many ways! I can’t quite believe she managed to win this match with all the missed chances and based on how she was feeling physically. Next up is Sloane Stephens and it will take one hell of an effort to recover for that. She will get all day though as it is the late night match in Cincy on Thursday.
WTA TV for the full replay is highly recommended. I’ll leave you with some more pictures by Omar Boraby of this incredible match!