DARIA Gavrilova has cashed in on a stunning meltdown from Bernarda Pera to scrape into the French Open third round in Paris.
The 24th seed teetered on the brink of a humbling straight-sets exit before saving a match point and joining fellow Australian Samantha Stosur in the last 32 with a 2-6 7-5 6-3 Houdini act on Thursday.
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Pera collapsed dramatically after blowing a match point at 5-2 up in the second set.
The American again served for the match at 5-4, but was unable to land a ball in the court, the left-hander incredibly committing nine unforced errors in a row, including a double-fault, to gift Gavrilova a lifeline.
Gavrilova didn’t immediately capitalise on her unexpected good fortune, dropping serve to love in the opening game of the third set and falling behind 2-0.
But she quickly regrouped and reeled off five straight games before clinching an epic victory after two hours and 35 minutes.
The great escape followed a similar fightback win from a set and a service break down in the first round against Sorana Cirstea and thrust Gavrilova into a showdown with Australian Open semi-finalist Elise Mertens on Saturday. Mertens, the 16th seed at Roland Garros, eliminated Gavrilova in the first round in Paris last year before recovering from 5-0 down in the opening set to also send the Australian No.2 packing from the Melbourne Park major in January.
Winless in Paris in three years before this week, Gavrilova will be making her first appearance in the third round of the clay-court grand slam. Such a scenario seemed a world away when the 24-year-old conceded seven games in a row from 5-2 up in the first set to 2-0 down in the second against Pera. A furious Gavrilova destroyed her racquet, receiving her second code violation of the tournament, as the match appeared to slip away.
The rollercoaster encounter finally turned Gavrilova’s way when she saved match with a nerveless backhand past the net-rushing American in the eighth game of the wild second set.
Ashleigh Barty, seeded for the first time in Paris, takes on the great Serena Williams in a centre-court blockbuster later on Thursday hoping to follow Gavrilova and Stosur into the last 32.