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Kontaveit holds off teenager Swiatek to reach last eight

By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Anett Kontaveit fought off a spirited challenge from Polish teenager Iga Swiatek to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final with a 6-7(4) 7-5 7-5 victory in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday.

The Estonian 28th seed saved 12 break points in a see-saw contest on Melbourne Arena as she battled back from a set down to book a last eight meeting with twice Grand Slam champion Simona Halep.

After losing the first set on a tiebreak, 24-year-old Kontaveit twice rallied from a break down to win the second set before racing to a 3-0 lead in the decider.

Swiatek, who mixed 42 winners with 51 unforced errors as she looked to become the youngest quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park since 2007, was not done yet, however.

The 18-year-old showed true grit to get the set back on serve at 5-5 and the match looked destined to be decided in a super tiebreak.

Kontaveit held her nerve and her serve, however, and sealed her place in the quarter-finals with her ninth break of the contest when the tough young Pole hit a backhand return wide.

"I couldn't be happier, it was such a battle today but so happy I stuck it out," said Kontaveit, who slumped to 31st in the world after a viral illness cut short her 2019 season.

"I'm very happy to be in the quarter-finals for the first time. I'm still shaking. I was just trying to stay as tough as I could and focus on every point."

Kontaveit has only played Halep twice, back in 2017 when the former Wimbledon and French Open champion first topped the world rankings.

The Estonian lost the matches in Rome and Miami in straight sets and knows she will have her work cut out against the fourth seed in Melbourne.

"Simona's so tough so I'll probably have to do everything well," she said.

"I have nothing to lose so I'll just go out and give it my all."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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