WTA Birmingham: Carla Suárez Navarro tops defending champion Angelique Kerber in epic three-setter

Angelique Kerber and Carla Suárez Navarro took to the court for the second time in the day as they clashed for a spot in the semifinals at Birmingham. The Spaniard was off to a better start taking the first set off Kerber. The German, however, came back strongly to level the match and the third set looked like it could be anyone's match. Suárez Navarro was playing possibly her best match on grass as she eventually earned a hard-fought 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 victory. 

Suárez Navarro’s fiery returns prove too much for the German

Suárez Navarro was off to superb start breaking Kerber at first chance in the second game before racing off to a 3-0 lead. The German got herself on board and the next few games progressed on serve. A rare error from the Spaniard handed Kerber with a chance to get the break back in the seventh game and the German capitalized after a wild shot from the sixth seed to get back on serve for 3-4.

Serving to level the set, Kerber sent a couple of errors and Suárez Navarro’s good returns did the damage as the Spaniard led once more for 5-3. The error bug though seemed to have passed on to the Spaniard who hit errors of her own to hand Kerber double break back point. Suárez Navarro though took control once more saving both of the points. The German continued applying pressure and it paid off as the Spaniard buckled and was broken back.

Kerber though was made to work hard once more on her serve and with the Spaniard winning most of the rallies it was no surprise when the German found herself facing set point. Suárez Navarro grabbed the first set as Kerber sent her shot just wide.

The Spaniard stuck with her game plan as she takes the first set | Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images
The Spaniard stuck with her game plan as she takes the first set | Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Kerber braves break points to ride out the second set

The German got the start she wanted, full of intent as she broke to start the second set. Suárez Navarro was once again hitting back some great returns putting pressure on the German’s serve for 0-30. Kerber made it 30-30 but a sweet backhand cross-court winner gave the Spaniard the opportunity to get an immediate break back. This time, though the second seed fended off the Spaniard to consolidate the break for the first time for a 2-0 lead.

Kerber rode on her momentum and broke the Spaniard to love to extend her lead to 3-0 with a delightful drop shot. However, it was looking like the German was unable to cope with Suárez Navarro’s powerful returns as she was once again down 0-30. The Spaniard earned a double break point but the second seed hung on bringing it back to deuce. Suárez Navarro’s backhand looked to get her back one of the breaks but the German stood firm to close out for a 4-0 lead.  

The defending champions win four games in a row in a perfect start to try and level the match | Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images
The defending champions win four games in a row in a perfect start to try and level the match | Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

The Spaniard eventually got herself on the scoreboard with a love hold for 1-4. The German followed it up with a relatively comfortable service game in a while to make Suárez Navarro to serve to stay in the set. The Spaniard was unable to do so and Kerber took the second set 6-1 to bring the match to a third and final set.

The Spaniard edges a thrilling third set filled with entertaining rallies

The Spaniard found herself with the chance to get an early break but Kerber once again braved the attempt to hold to start the deciding set. Suárez Navarro was knocking on the door at every opportunity but just falling short each time as Kerber edged 2-1 on serve.  

The Spaniard was having a relatively easier time on serve compared to her opponent and was once again on the verge of finding the elusive break. The German, however, had other ideas showing grit and composure to save yet again. Suárez Navarro was not going to rue the missed chances as she earned another chance from a Kerber error. And this time, even the German’s solid defense couldn’t come to her aid as the Spaniard finally found the break to lead 3-2.

Suárez Navarro's backhand was a sight to behold as she breaks first in the third set | Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Suárez Navarro's backhand was a sight to behold as she breaks first in the third set | Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Suárez Navarro who looked at ease on serve in the third set was in a little bit of stutter as she handed Kerber the chance to break right back. She seemed to almost emulate the German in fending off break points but Kerber was having none of it as she broke at the third attempt to level for 3-3. The match’s intensity dropped a little as both held their next games comfortably for 4-4.

With the second seed backing it up with a quick hold for 5-4, scoreboard pressure was now on Suárez Navarro. The Spaniard was almost in danger down 0-30 but reeled off three straight points to get a game point. Kerber was not making it any easier, winning a sumptuous point with a forehand down the line winner at the end of a backhand-forehand rally exchange to bring it to deuce. The German kept pushing the Spaniard but Suárez Navarro hung on for 5-5.

Kerber was having to save break points while getting close to finding the crucial break | Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Kerber was having to save break points while getting close to finding the crucial break | Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

That tough hold seemed to have invigorated the Spaniard who broke to love for an opportunity to serve out the match.  The defending champion continued battling away and a rare wide backhand gave Kerber the chance to get back into the match. Kerber though was unable to capitalize as Suárez Navarro then got match point. She followed that up with a double fault before handing the German with yet another break point. A missed volley at the net brought up another opportunity for Kerber but it just wasn't to be her day as the defending champion bowed out with the Spaniard going on to seal the victory.

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