Wimbledon: Ekaterina Makarova continues good run of form, ousts Lucie Safarova in thriller

Ekaterina Makarova recovered from a set down to defeat fellow lefty Lucie Safarova in the third round of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships, prevailing to reach the second week.

Ekaterina Makarova
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Lucie Safarova

After claiming incredible wins over Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships respectively, fellow lefties and former top-10 players Lucie Safarova and Ekaterina Makarova continued their good run of form, playing out an incredible thriller out on Court No.12. The Russian revived from a set down, triumphing with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 scoreline as she sealed her return to the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2017 Australian Open.

It was a very encouraging tournament for Safarova, who has been struggling with illnesses and injuries ever since she made her maiden Major final at the 2015 French Open. Since then, she fell outside of the top 60s in the rankings, but with this impressive win which saw her claim a good win over Radwanska, the Czech finally seemed to have found her best form once more.

Ekaterina Makarova celebrates winning a point | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Ekaterina Makarova celebrates winning a point | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Before entering the tournament, Makarova has not won back-to-back matches throughout the year but Wimbledon saw her winning three consecutively, all coming over quality opponents as well. The Russian is a former quarterfinalist here at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and will look to make a return to that stage but first has to get past Camila Giorgi in the fourth round.

Safarova claims the tight opening set

The proceedings were extremely tight and no more than one solitary game separated both players on the scoreboard until the final game. Both players were serving extremely well although Safarova has always edged close to a breakthrough — dragging Makarova to deuce in three of her return games. However, the former world number eight was able to prevail in the nervy moments with the help of some world-class baseline play.

Lucie Safarova clinched the opening set and owned break points to earn the commanding lead in the second set | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Lucie Safarova clinched the opening set and owned break points to earn the commanding lead in the second set | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

Both players are left-handed competitors and were also once ranked inside the top-10. Makarova and Safarova were trading early service holds and after eight consecutive holds, it was the Russian who experienced the first hiccup. Makarova threw in her first double-fault of the day on 30-30 at 4-4, gifting Safarova the first break point of the match. The Czech dutifully converted her chance, relying on a forehand unforced error by Makarova to do so. Safarova then comfortably served out the first set, losing just six points on her serve throughout the set.

Makarova fights back from the brink

Makarova then gained the momentum once again, recovering from a 0-30 deficit to start the second set with a good service hold. The Russian earned her first break points of the match in the following game, but Safarova was quick to erase those opportunities as she ultimately closed out the game with an unreturnable ace. The Czech continued to struggle on her serves but rebounded during the crucial moments — saving a break point in the fourth game with another ace.

Lucie Safarova celebrates winning a point | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Lucie Safarova celebrates winning a point | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

After much hustling, Makarova would have rued her missed opportunities as her impressive serving saved her from the brink, fending off two break points to level the scores and remain on serve. The Russian’s high first-serve percentage of 81 was just too good for her opponent, and Safarova’s game crumbled while she was serving to stay in the set.

Makarova raised her level of play and she was third-time lucky, claiming the tight second set with another fantastic dropshot winner. Both players combined for 28 unreturned serves, 31 winners and just eight unforced errors in the high-quality second set.

Ekaterina Makarova was extremely solid at the baseline today | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Ekaterina Makarova was extremely solid at the baseline today | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

Makarova strolls to the win

Makarova rode on her momentum and Safarova was clearly losing the plot, with her game wandering elsewhere after the loss of the tight second set. The Russian was firing on all cylinders and blasting winner after winner for the early break. She easily consolidated the break for a commanding 3-0 lead within a blink of an eye, though Safarova immediately reduced the deficit with a confident service hold.

Just when Safarova stopped the rout of losing five consecutive games, Makarova strung together another impressive run as she rattled off 12 of the last 14 points to claim the huge win. The Russian lost only three points on her serve throughout the deciding set and blasted a huge backhand winner on match point to triumph after an hour and 53 minutes of play.

Ekaterina Makarova will look to make the quarterfinals once again | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Ekaterina Makarova will look to make the quarterfinals once again | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

It was a stunning showing by both players, who joint forces to put together a thrilling encounter for the fans. Safarova managed to hit 32 winners to just 17 unforced errors while Makarova was even more impressive, blasting 34 winners with just 14 unforced errors.