Aleksandra Wozniak reached the round-of-16 at the French Open on Saturday with a hard-fought 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain.
On a sunny day when wind was sometimes a factor, Wozniak, seeded No. 24, had to deal with the diminutive Dominguez Lino's high, looping, off-pace shots, as well as gusts that occasionally blew the ball off line.
After sailing through the first set, her well-hit ground strokes allowing her dominate, Wozniak got caught in the web of the Spaniard's steady diet of topspin shots and dogged retrieving in the second. She lost confidence in her ability to hit hard off the slow, high-arching balls of the No. 87-ranked Dominguez Lino.
In the third set, Wozniak regained enough self-assurance in her heavy, more penetrating ground strokes to eek out a win over a woman who defeated her 6-1, 6-1 on American clay in Charleston, S.C., in April, 2008.
On the stats sheet, Wozniak had 25 winners and 41 unforced errors to 22 winners and 28 unforced errors by Dominguez Lino. But maybe the more telling numbers were the 21 forced errors by Wozniak and 35 forced errors by Dominguez Lino, which indicates that the Canadian's heavier hitting took its toll on her Spanish opponent.
"I hit really hard and aggressive in the first set," Wozniak said. "In the second, I started to think a bit too much. I made too many unforced errors and she got back into the match. The third set was tight all the way. I had to be tough mentally because it is so emotional when you're close to closing it out.
"She plays with heavy topspin and it's really tough to return. I always tried to step in and hit through my shots."
Dominguez Lino saw the match much the same way as her opponent. "It was a tough match," said the 28-year-old veteran who has a nice single-handed topspin backhand. "I had opportunities in the third set but she (Wozniak) played better on the important points."
About her one-sided win over the Canadian No. 1 last year, Dominguez Lino said, "It was 6-1, 6-1 but it was very tough. There were a lot of long games and the result wasn't the way the match went."
Saturday's match was played before a full house on the 1,500-seat Court No. 7 on a day when the Roland Garros grounds were jammed with spectators, many of whom have grounds passes that don't allow access to the three main stadiums - Court Philippe Chatrier, Court Suzanne Lenglen and Court No. 1.
"I loved the atmosphere," Wozniak said. "Full house, it's always great to play like that. Everyone was cheering and supporting their favourite."
Wozniak, 21, has now gone one round better at Roland Garros than her third round a year ago, and recorded her best result at a Grand Slam event.
She is the first Canadian to make it to the French Open round-of-16 since Patricia Hy-Boulais in 1992.
The best results at Roland Garros by a Canadian were quarter-final finishes - in 1984 and 1986 by Carling Bassett-Seguso and1988 and 1989 by Helen Kelesi.
"I beat my goal of doing better than last year," Wozniak said. "Now I have to keep on going and focus on my next opponent."
That opponent will be second seed Serena Williams, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner on Saturday over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain.
Wozniak and Williams met last summer in the semi-finals of the WTA Tour event in Palo Alto (Stanford University), Calif., and Wozniak won 6-2, 3-1, ret., when Williams had to stop because of a knee injury.
In men's doubles play on Saturday, top seeds Daniel Nestor of Toronto and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia reached the third round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Leos Friedl and David Skoch of the Czech Republic.
Follow us on Twitter: