The first set of third round matches were completed in the desert on Sunday. There have been so many competitive matches during this tournament and the depth of the WTA tour continues to shine, as showcased by the first match discussed in this post between Simona Halep and Kateryna Kozlova. Read on for 5 stories from day 5 of main draw action at the BNP Paribas Open.
Halep battles past Kozlova
Simona Halep battled to a hard fought straight sets win over Kateryna Kozlova in a slugfest of a match, 7-6(3) 7-5. It was a much closer match than I expected as Kozlova played WELL above her current ranking of 114. Kozlova was mentally resilient in fighting back in both sets as Halep failed to serve out both sets.
Kozlova has a very steady game and she showed off her variety with the drop shot, which was surprisingly successful against Halep. Not the most convincing of performances from Halep but she stayed committed and focused, finishing off both sets in style with down-the-line winners.
Side note – is it just me or is Stadium 1 court really, really slow? 🤔
Wang Qiang outlasts Mertens
Wang Qiang enjoyed her best win of 2019 so far, outlasting Elise Mertens in a gruelling affair, 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 6-3 in two hours and 57 minutes. I started watching from the end of the second set and it was a good match. Plenty of fast-paced rallies and very little momentum for either player. Wang Qiang was rewarded for being more aggressive at the end and closed out the match with an ace down-the-tee. By all accounts, it was a rollercoaster match from start to finish!
Bertens edges Konta
In an engaging contest, Kiki Bertens saved a trio of set points in the first set tiebreak and won two close games at the end of the second set to edge Johanna Konta, 7-6(10) 6-4. I was focusing on what Konta was doing for most of this match because Bertens was just so steady with very few dips in her level and solid mentally.
Konta was lacking rhythm on her groundstrokes in the unique conditions. The Brit was error-strewn off the forehand wing to begin with and then the backhand in the first set tiebreak. You could see that was Konta trying lots of different things, even if they weren’t all that successful! She tried to coming to the net and tirelessly persisted with the drop shots in the second set. The stats were all heavily in favour of Bertens, yet there was really only a few points here or there between them as Konta competed very well.
I’m still bowled over by Bertens’s transformation in the past year and would not be surprised in the slightest if she can hold her top ten position come the end of the year. For Konta, I think there are a lot of positives to take away from the week and she is generally playing at a higher level compared to 2018.
Side note – I really like Kiki’s new outfit!
Muguruza advances by retirement
Garbiñe Muguruza advanced to the fourth round by retirement leading 6-3 1-0 after Serena Williams was forced to pull outwith a viral illness. Serena seemed to be struggling to catch her breath in the first set and complained of pain in her left thigh after the first set as she had both the physio and doctor on court. After one game of the second set, it was clear that Serena could not continue as she complained of not being able to breathe. Get well soon, Serena!
For Muguruza, it was hard to gauge her level but she seemed to be striking the ball very well. I’m looking forward to Muguruza’s next match where she takes on another top ten player in Kiki Bertens.
Osaka’s press conference
I liked how Naomi Osaka discussed in her press conference how she learns from her mistakes with losses. She did that in the second round, managing to overturn a recent loss to Kristina Mladenovic.