Monday’s Set Points, WTA Miami: Stephens wins battle of Slam champs, Kerber outlasts Wang Yafan

Magic Monday Miami style saw all eight fourth round matches on the schedule. I managed to get home from work early and really enjoyed the evening of tennis! This post is my diary from the day and thoughts on all the matches. Quarter-final previews for Tuesday’s matches are included at the end of the post. Read on for nine stories in Monday’s Set Points post from Miami.

Pliskova first into the Miami QFs

Karolina Pliskova needed less than an hour to book her place in the last eight of the Miami Open with a 6-2 2-0 retirement win over Zarina Diyas. The Kazakh player had taping on her leg and was affected by an abdominal injury. Pliskova is into yet another quarter-final at a big event and is once again proving her supreme consistency. The issue has been delivering in matches at the latter stages of tournaments.

I like Diyas and she has some impressive groundstrokes. While the error count was high, she actually hit more winners than Pliskova in the set and a bit. If Diyas can stay healthy, I think she is a top 30 player at her peak.

Kerber outlasts Wang 

I thought this was going to be a quick and easy win for Kerber. I was wrong. Kerber was two points away from going out of the tournament before rallying to beat the very impressive qualifier, Wang Yafan, 6-7(1) 7-6(5) 6-3 in two hours and 51 minutes. At 6-5 in the first set, Wang Yafan missed three set points in a crazy game. Wang Yafan dramatically seesawed between rushing the net and grinding at the baseline. Kerber’s passes were on point, both down set point and on break point, and got her into the tiebreak. Rather surprisingly, Wang Yafan took it seven points to one.

I went off to watch Muguruza-Stephens and expected to come back to the third set. When that finished, Wang Yafan was one game away from the win! The second set was once again decided on the tiebreak. Wang Yafan put a return barely long just two points away from the win. Two points later, Kerber forced the decider on a lung-busting rally with moonballs and all that jazz. I think I stopped breathing during that set point 😂. You can enjoy part of the point below (Note – the video misses out the moonballs at the start of the rally). Kerber dropped just four points behind her serve en route to a sixth consecutive quarter-final in 2018.

Kerber has not been as aggressive as she was in Australia. To be fair, I don’t think the conditions in either Indian Wells or Miami really suit her game. I’m loving her commitment and she seems up for the battle. Big respect to Wang Yafan for playing a fab match.

US Open champ beats Wimbledon champ

In a battle of current Slam champions, Sloane Stephens beat Garbiñe Muguruza, 6-3 6-4. Stephens’s performance was subtlety impressive. There was nothing flashy about this display. She kept things so, so solid, both game-wise and mentally, giving very little away. Muguruza tried to be aggressive, almost to the point of overforcing, and couldn’t break through Stephens who was calm and resolute. I thought that Stephens may struggle on serve. In fact, it was Muguruza’s serve that was came under attack as the Spaniard won just 29% of second serve points.

I’m not worried about Muguruza. I think that she needs a few big wins as I sense her confidence may have been shaken a little with the losses to Kasatkina and Vickery in Dubai and Indian Wells respectively. I’m really pleased to see Stephens coming back towards her US Open form. She’s knocking on the door of the top ten and could go much, much higher with nothing to defend until August.

Sloane’s press conference

Sloane talked about the importance of digging deep in her third round match against Monica Niculescu (press conference linked below from the WTA’s YouTube page).

Svitolina maintains 100% record over Barty

Elina Svitolina had another slow start on Monday as she quickly went down 2-5 in the first set against Ashleigh Barty. Building on her coach, Andrew Bettles’s advice to raise her intensity, she did just that and barely put a foot wrong for the rest of the match. Svitolina won, 7-5 6-4.

Barty had started the match in fine form with serve, slice and forehand all working in sync with each other. The errors came when she served for the first set at *5-3. Barty was SO negative and frustrated when she spoke with her coach at 5-6* on the changeover. He tried everything to bring her back but she just couldn’t seem to put a bad few games behind her as she labelled her tennis as absolutely rubbish. We’ve all been there…

Barty never really recovered her form after that and Svitolina served out the match in confident fashion. Svitolina has handled this very challenging draw well so far and it won’t get any easier going forward.

Azarenka getting better and better

Victoria Azarenka enjoyed a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 win over Agnieszka Radwanska. I stayed up for the first set which was good fun despite the one-sided scoreline. Aga had the hot shots (see below) but Vika was absolutely rolling. Great to see Vika in this form so soon into her return.

VENUS WILLIAMS.

Superlatives don’t do Venus justice. Fighting back from a set down for the second day in a row, Venus Williams knocked out the defending champion, Johanna Konta, 5-7 6-1 6-2. I watched the end of the first set where Konta had done well to save a set point before winning the set with a pair of brilliant backhands.

While I was sleeping…

Danielle Collins maintained her marvellous March run with a 3-6 6-4 6-2 win over Monica Puig. Collins is into a first WTA-level quarter-final. Get to know Collins in the piece linked below.

Jelena Ostapenko won three matches in a row for the first time in 2018, beating Petra Kvitova, 7-6(4) 6-3 in a rain-delayed night match.

Charleston wildcards

One of my favourite tournaments is up next week in Charleston and the first two wild cards have been announced. I don’t think we are going to get another classic JJ-Petko video though?!?!

 

Tuesday’s QF previews

Kerber vs. Stephens: Both have had that one match where they have had to dig deep. Stephens has an excellent record over Kerber having won three of their last four matches (one via retirement). I think that the courts favour Sloane too and she was so stable in her fourth round match against Muguruza. I’m going for Sloane.

Pliskova vs. Azarenka: This is one of the rare times I am actually excited about a match involving Pliskova. The last two Pliskova-Azarenka matches were both excellent, especially the Brisbane clash from 2015. Pliskova has not really got up for these QF/SF clashes in the last year. Despite playing so few matches, I have been very impressed by Azarenka’s return. I’m going for Vika.

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11 thoughts on “Monday’s Set Points, WTA Miami: Stephens wins battle of Slam champs, Kerber outlasts Wang Yafan

  1. Yeah I felt for Ash Barty too. I played yesterday and was in the exact same situation, getting wound up from playing loose points against a really great defender. Svitolina’s sluggish starts are a bit puzzling. She actually looked like she’d been crying yesterday early on, or maybe she’s just really tired? She was pretty awesome when she got going, she’ll need that if she’s going to beat an in form Ostapenko.

    Im going Vika and Sloane too.

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  2. Well done Sloane (and Vika)!. Should be a great semi-final.

    Fools rush in with the predictions … I’m going for Svitty to win against Jelena Ostapenko, and Venus to beat Danielle Collins; Danielle’s had a great run but I think Venus will be just too good for her. Ost’s been playing well recently but I don’t think at the moment she’s got enough to beat an in-form Svitolina.

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    • I do hope Svitolina comes through. I feel like she’s so close to real greatness (ie Slam winning form), she just needs a tiny bit more belief. Winning Miami would make her extremely difficult to beat at the French Open, I think.

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      • I still think she can go on and do well at the slams regardless of this Miami result. Frankly, I didn’t think she would beat Ostapenko. Especially given her slow start to the previous match. She was being her default self, and that against aggressive in form power players is not helpful.

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  3. Penko was great today. She really peaked in the tiebreaks. She deserved the win for her courage.

    Svitolina was just pushing in the 1st set. Really annoying to see…
    But her 2nd set was good agressive tennis which made her a Top 5 player.
    What she needs is more belief and courage.
    But it is hard I admit: Imo you either have the champion mentality or mindset or not.

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    • I agree that Svitolina was very passive at times. However, she did say to her coach that she had stomach pain so I would guess this may have explained it in the first set. Ostapenko though deserved the win. She went after her shots at the end and it really paid off.

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      • Yeah I mentioned the other day that Svitolina has seemed ‘off’ this whole tournament. She’s looked very low energy and irritable, maybe just a bad case of women’s problems.
        I think that considering she wasn’t close to her best, the score was pretty encouraging for her.

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    • Yeah, Jelena was top notch in the breakers. She is a tough opponent when her eyes are wide open and she is up for the fight, even for players like Svitolina. You may get the pace from her but it’s usually not where you want it( her ‘risky’ play). Glad Svitolina lifted her intensity, but few players can ‘out-intensify’ Ostapenko. That’s all she knows.
      I do think Elina is developing the needed mindset, but there is so much you can do when your gameplay is not about weapons. It begs more from your opponents weaknesses or errors. Ostapenko was not ready to give the match away. Svitolina had to take it from her and she couldn’t.

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  4. Next week
    Charlestown
    Siegemud in the first WTA main draw after her injury.
    Patty Schynder in the qualies

    Monterrey
    Collins is listed, but may pull out after long runs in IW and Miami.
    WTA.com had a long article about Collins. It’s strange that Collins, after being national college champ twice, was not very successful in the ITF in ’16 and ’17 ,and then she explodes in the WTA in’18.

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