A sensational quarter-final line-up is on the cards at the 2017 Miami Open on Wednesday with two all-top 12 clashes. This preview focuses on the match between Simona Halep and Johanna Konta. While Konta advanced to the quarter-finals in straight sets, Halep battled back from the brink to confirm her place in the final eight in Miami.
Halep d. Stosur, 4-6 7-5 6-2 (R4)
Enjoying her best week of the year so far, Halep advanced to the quarter-finals of Miami for the third consecutive year. The Romanian player produced a battling display, saving a match point and recovering from 4-6 2-5 down to win in three entertaining sets against Sam Stosur. Halep had started the brighter, leading 4-2 in the first set, before Stosur mounted an aggressive comeback. The Aussie was winning big on serve with her top spin bothering Halep, who began to miss an array of key forehands.
Stosur continued the strong form in the second set and was one game away from the match – the 32-year-old threw in an edgy service game trying to serve out at *5-3 but had a match point in the next game on Halep’s serve. The Romanian player produced a gutsy point, going big on the forehand. In a battle of the forehands, Halep had more control over hers as she reeled off seven straight games to win the second set and go up a break in the decider. The end of the second set was good quality tennis!
Stosur’s level dipped quite significantly with sloppy errors and shorter balls, allowing Halep to step in and dictate. Halep capitalised on the opportunity with an excellent third set performance – she dropped just two points behind her first serve in the decider with Stosur going long many times on return. Full credit to Halep for turning this match around as she secured her first come-from-behind three set win since Montreal last year.
Konta d. Arruabarrena, 7-5 6-1 (R4)
Konta reached back-to-back quarter-finals in Miami with another solid win over Lara Arruabarrena. The Brit was definitely second best in the opener against an in-form opponent. The Spaniard dropped just eight points behind serve and constructed some wonderful points. Konta was spraying the forehand and didn’t really have a read on return. She remained in the lead relying on her serve as ever, which got her out of trouble at *1-1, saving two break points. The serve-groundstroke combo also pulled her through serving at *5-5 in a game that went to deuce.
Having put little pressure on the Spaniard’s serve, Konta’s champion instincts kicked in (and perhaps Arruabarrena’s nerves too) as she sealed the set with the first break of the set and a winner off the improving forehand. Konta made errors in the first set but still came away with a positive return, 18 winners to 12 unforced errors. Arruabarrena was also positive with nine winners to just three unforced errors, of which two came in that final game.
After winning a tight opening set, Konta grew in confidence in the second set as she looked to be much more aggressive and dictate points up at the net. The Brit was fantastic through the first four games. A sloppy service game at *4-0 threatened to throw the momentum. Konta though refocused to break back and then served out the match, saving a break point in the process, and finishing with a gorgeous volley.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match in Wuhan in 2015, Konta produced a remarkable comeback from 1-5 down in the third set to triumph, 6-3 3-6 7-5.
Interesting stat: Konta and Halep are two of the most consistent performers on hard courts; since Wimbledon, the pair have combined for three hard court titles with Konta posting a 41-10 W-L record and Halep, 23-9.
Final thoughts: Firstly, i’m thrilled about this quarter-final line-up (not just Lucie!) and it should be a superb ending to the tournament in Miami. This particular match is probably my favourite since we’ve only seen it once. There’s a case that the slower surface suits Halep, yet Konta is such a consistent performer on hard court and seems to be finding her rhythm following a break from the tour between Fed Cup and Indian Wells.
Konta’s not quite at the level she was in Australia, particularly on return, but the serve continues to be a dominant weapon and she showed more confidence in coming forward in the second set against Arruabarrena, a tactic that will key against Halep. Halep seems to be on the right track now with the clay season looming and this match-up, against the highest ranked player she has faced in 2017 so far, will be a good indicator of where her level is at following a stop-start, injury-affected year. For that very reason, i’d give the edge to Konta in this match with her rock-solid focus and reliable serve, particularly the second serve.