Wuhan continued to produce some wacky results with the top two seeds remaining in the draw prior to Wednesday both on their way to Beijing after losing their third round matches. The result of the week so far saw Johanna Konta keep on winning, recovering from the abyss of a 1-5 third set deficit to defeat the world number two, Simona Halep, 6-3 3-6 7-5. Halep’s year has been such a rollercoaster and after seemingly getting back on track in the US, she’s careering off in a strange direction once more. This could be a tough one to get over. I’m still trying to process how Halep lost six straight games. After splitting sets, Halep took control of the decider and saved multiple break points to go up 5-1. With momentum firmly in her favour, Halep twice failed to serve out the match; the first time getting broken on a double fault and the second time, outfoxed by a gorgeous wrong-footing forehand winner from Konta that was plum on the line.
There were errors from Halep, many forced, and Konta was so impressive in the way she went about getting back into the match. When Konta levelled up at 5-5, I still expected Halep to win the next two games. It’s just how it always seems to go. But no… Konta began with an error into the net but she generally managed to hold her ground on the baseline and it was Halep who kept making the error first. Another mistake saw Konta seal the biggest win of her career. I can understand Halep not being totally up for these tournaments. She’s qualified for Singapore and I think the US Open semi-final loss to Flavia Pennetta would have hurt so you couldn’t have blamed her for taking a lengthy break. However, to be in that winning position and lose from there was a huge surprise and a bitter pill to swallow.
Konta continues to baffle me. It’s great to see a British woman doing so, so, well, competing with the very best players on tour. Konta has won 21 of her last 22 matches extending all the way back to Wimbledon and her last four losses have come against Kvitova, Sharapova, Bencic and Pliskova…. not too shabby! I just can’t understand howwww it’s all suddenly fallen into place like the flick of a light switch. It really is a staggering rise and with Konta set to crack the world’s top 50, she will be able to get direct entry into the main draw of most events next year. Next up, Venus Williams! The American player had another excellent win, particularly as she has struggled against Carla Suárez Navarro in the past. Venus was mentally solid as she sealed her place in the last eight with a 6-3 6-4 victory. Again, i’d be surprised if Konta keeps winning. Venus has looked in great form this week but who knows…
The other quarter-final in the top half will feature Karolina Pliskova and Roberta Vinci. Pliskova enjoyed another excellent win, coming from a set down to defeat Elina Svitolina and maintain a 100% record against the Ukranian player. Svitolina will be kicking herself as she looked to be in control; at 6-2 *4-4 40-40, she threw in two costly double faults. Although Svitolina kept fighting hard and running down balls from side-to-side, she was second best from that point on as Pliskova prevailed, 2-6 6-4 6-4. Pliskova was playing some good ball and got through that decider serving at 44% first serves. Unsurprisingly, she was the more aggressive player although even when Svitolina did step inside the baseline, Pliskova chased down some balls that you would never expect her to get to. Svitolina was understandably frustrated but it was also interesting to see Pliskova vocal as well… I swear that’s not something we saw at the start of the year.
An all-Czech quarter-final was thwarted by Vinci who earnt her third win over Petra Kvitova. It wasn’t a surprising result based on Kvitova’s gruelling win over Daria Gavrilova the previous night although Kvitova had led *4-0 in the first set. It’s refreshing to see Vinci backing up her great run at the US Open. All too often we’re using to seeing players make a breakthrough at a Slam but then struggle to maintain that form. In their only previous match, Vinci thrashed Pliskova, 6-1 6-0 on the indoor clay of Katowice two years ago. Even before I saw that scoreline, I was thinking Vinci. That was two years ago though with Vinci at her peak and before Pliskova made her breakthrough. Pliskova’s digging out wins like she did at the start of the year but I still think fatigue could be an issue. Vinci, at her best, could make this a really tough match.
The final quarter-final features Angelique Kerber up against CoCo Vandeweghe. Kerbs is taking advantage of a favourable seedless draw. In what could have been a dangerous match, Kerber won in straights against Camila Giorgi, 6-2 6-4. Vandeweghe has needed three sets in all three of her matches this week including third set tiebreaks in the last two with victories over Caroline Garcia (6-3 6-7(4) 7-6(4)) and Barbora Strycova (3-6 6-2 7-6(3)). The Vandeweghe-Strycova match was moved to Centre after a rain-affected day and was unfortunately not streamed… I think we missed out some GIFs there! In their only previous match last year, Kerber defeated Vandeweghe in a funky Stanford scoreline, 7-6(4) 0-6 6-2. I can understand the surface suiting CoCo and she’s dangerous when the serve is booming but I think Kerber wins that. I’m all in for the *potential* Kerber-Muguruza semi-final…. Please let it happen! In case you missed it, the Muguruza-Schmiedlova quarter-final is previewed in full HERE.