The first quarter-final of the day was a cracker on paper and it delivered in parts. From a set down and within two points of losing the match, Johanna Konta rallied to defeat Simona Halep, 3-6 7-6(7) 6-2 in two hours and 30 minutes.
The win had looked far off for Konta in the first set as she struggled for rhythm in all aspects of her game. Most surprisingly, Konta won just 33% behind her second serve with Halep returning superbly. The Romanian player was able to absorb and redirect Konta’s pace with angles as the Brit seemed to be overforcing, miscuing many returns.
Konta went to plan B at the start of the second set and with great success – the Brit quickly raced into a 3-0 lead with a more positive gameplan as she looked to come forward. However, with two break points at 3-0* 40-15*, Konta let Halep, who had gone into her shell, back into the match with a bad volley miss on the second break point. Suddenly, Konta’s serve disappeared and her positivity faded as Halep got back on level terms. Konta missed two more break points at 4-3 as then Halep broke. Konta never looked comfortable with Halep’s mix of shots, looping up balls and hitting flat too.
Serving for the set, Halep opened with a nervy double fault, decelerating badly on the second serve. Halep’s first serve deserted her in what was a tense game from both players with Konta once again missing opportunities, before finally breaking on a backhand error from Halep. The set ebbed into a nervy and error-strewn tiebreak. In the end, Konta was more solid on serve and a touch more bold on the big points.
After struggling on her second serve for most of the match (Halep returned great), Konta’s serving statistics in the third set improved dramatically and were more like what we’ve come to expect over the past year or two. Konta dropped just six points behind serve in the third set as she tidied up her game in a big way, dictating rallies and controlling up at the net. In the end, Halep ran out of steam as her patience waned with some tired looking errors.
Konta struggled in this match-up and didn’t play her best at all, but found a way. The mental side of Konta’s game continues to impress.
Halep had a fascinating changeover chat with her coach, Darren Cahill. Darren, please be my life coach! I thought he absolutely nailed it. As he said, this was the first tournament this year where Halep has been close to 100% with the knee. Although this was a tough loss and you could see her negativity in the chat, I think she will bounce back strongly on the clay.
Venus Williams defeated the world number one, Angelique Kerber, 7-5 6-3 in Wednesday’s night match. I’ve just watched back the first set and I thought it was one of Kerber’s best sets of the year, excluding the two double faults at the end to gift away the set. Venus seems to be serving with more pace and doesn’t have the strapping this tournament, which is positive. She was rewarded for her positivity in coming forward.
Another superb win for Venus and a beaming smile at the end!
Thursday is semi-finals day for the women – first up is Karolina Pliskova vs. Caroline Wozniacki at 1pm local time (6pm UK time) with a preview up on the blog at the link below. I’ll be playing tennis during the match (first club night of the Spring woo!) but i’ve been able to catch up with matches on YouTube which has been great so hopefully should see it later tonight.
The second semi-final will be contested between Johanna Konta and Venus Williams. Konta has won their last two matches in 2016 at the Australian Open (6-4 6-2) and Stanford (7-5 5-7 6-2). I liked the way that Konta found a way past Halep, not playing her best, but also changing up her play when things weren’t working. Venus’s intensity has been brilliant this week and her serve has held up well.
This should be another fascinating contest. Edge for Konta with me. I’ve gone against Venus most of the time these past few weeks and look what has happened 😂😂😂
Vera Zvonareva made her comeback on the ITF circuit but was sadly forced to retire hurt with a leg injury.
Belinda Bencic is into the quarter-finals of the ITF tournament in Croissy-Beaubourg after a tight three set win over Tereza Smitkova, 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5. In my opinion, these are exactly the sort of matches she needs.
And finally, loving these features with Sloane Stephens for the Tennis Channel. Nice to get to know a bit more about Kayla Day, who will be in the Charleston main draw next week.