The semi-finals are set at the 2019 Miami Open with Anett Kontaveit, Ash Barty, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova all reaching the last four. Unsurprisingly, it’s a completely different line-up to Indian Wells. This post reviews the four quarter-finals played across Tuesday and Wednesday, as well previewing Thursday’s semi-finals.
Battling back from 0-4 down in the third set, Anett Kontaveit advanced to her first Premier Mandatory semi-final with a 2-6 6-3 7-5 victory over Hsieh Su-Wei. I thought this was a mostly messy match and I didn’t really get into it until the end. This match was largely decided on Kontaveit’s racquet. First set, Kontaveit couldn’t find the court. Second set, Kontaveit found the court. Third set was a mixed bag!
I thought Hsieh played her best tennis at the start of the third set as she looked increasing purposeful. Hsieh had three game points for a 5-1 third set lead before Kontaveit mounted her comeback. Hsieh became increasingly laboured on serve and retreated further and further behind the baseline. While giving ALL the credit to Kontaveit, Hsieh did mention in her press about a slight muscle pull (via David Kane on Twitter).
Kontaveit was still up and down late in the decider, but kept going after her shots. While hesitant at times, she did take on board Nigel Sears’s advice (he pleaded with her!) to come forward and take the ball out of the air. It’s clear to me Kontaveit lacks belief in herself and it makes me want to root for her. I think Kontaveit has one of the best attitudes of any player on tour.
The stats were befuddling – Kontaveit hit 44 winners to 50 unforced errors, while Hsieh hit just 5 (!) winners to 20 unforced errors. The key was that Kontaveit managed to keep her winners and unforced errors relatively even, and kept battling despite being way down in the scoreline.
Barty’s first win over Kvitova, will crack the top ten
In my favourite match of the tournament so far, Ash Barty scored her first ever win over Petra Kvitova in a rain-disrupted clash, 7-6(6) 3-6 6-2 in two hours and 31 minutes. By virtue of the win, Barty will crack the world’s top 10 in next week’s rankings – richly deserved!
Although Barty had the first set point in the opener, it felt like she kind of stole the set in the tiebreak as Kvitova had looked in control before committing some unforced errors. Kvitova played a mostly peak second set. Barty reset in the decider and was constructing the points beautifully. There was one particular rally, the best point of the match (see below), that resulted in Kvitova gasping for air and requiring her inhaler on the next changeover. While Kvitova won that particular point, the effort clearly took its tool on her as Barty won the last four games of the match with some stellar serving.
It is so nice to see Kvitova producing consistent results, week in week out. Echoing some of the comments on the blog, I would love to see Petra get that world number one ranking this year. I am thrilled for Barty and her game is exciting to watch. I genuinely look forward to all of her matches. I like what she is doing on the backhand side at this tournament by hitting more regulations backhands mixed in with the slice. The way she constructed points with the backhand was key to halting Kvitova’s momentum in the third set.
Two additions for H&H! 🤗
There were two wonderful embraces after the first pair of quarter-finals on Tuesday with Jimmie48 Tennis on Twitter catching both on camera. The respect that Ash and Petra share for each other is so touching!
A stirring second set comeback from Halep
Simona Halep produced a stirring second set comeback to beat Wang Qiang in straight sets, 6-4 7-5. Wang Qiang led 5-1 in the second set and held three set points on the Halep serve at 5-4* 40-0*. It was a befuddling second set because Halep had looked in total control at the start of the second set before getting into a frustrated rut.
Halep found her rhythm in time, playing a wondrous game at *4-5 which was punctuated with a sensational on-the-run backhand down-the-line that sailed in for the shot of the day (see below). I thought Halep was the deserving winner as she was ultimately rewarded for being the more positive of the pair. Wang Qiang played a pretty solid match but was too passive in the first set and failed to put Halep under any serious pressure.
Pliskova ends Vondrousova’s run
Karolina Pliskova secured her place as the fourth semi-finalist with a straight sets win over fellow compatriot, Marketa Vondrousova, 6-3 6-4. I thought this match would be closer and had fancied Vondrousova to have a decent shot at the upset. Vondrousova’s best spell of the match came early on in the second set when she went up 3-0 with a break. Vondrousova was was able to step in, push Pliskova back and use the drop shot. Pliskova soon regained control as Vondrousova began to leak errors off the forehand wing.
The stats show it was pretty close – Pliskova had a much higher first serve percentage and Vondrousova had a few more unforced errors. A good, solid win for Pliskova and her most convincing victory of the tournament so far.
Semi-final #1 – Barty vs. Kontaveit
It’s a first career match-up on the WTA tour between Ash Barty and Anett Kontaveit. Barty did reveal in her quarter-final post-match interview that she think she played Kontaveit in Wimbledon juniors way back. No data points and also no experience for either at this stage of a Premier Mandatory tournament. I’m going for Barty in straights – I think her serve, especially the second serve, has been very secure and her point construction is so thoughtful and can halt the rhythm and momentum of her opponents.
Semi-final #2 – Halep vs. Pliskova
A year ago Halep absolutely dominated this head-to-head. In their last two matches, the tables have turned a little with Pliskova claiming her first win over Halep in Madrid and then pushing Halep hard in a blockbuster Fed Cup battle earlier this year which Halep won, 6-4 5-7 6-4. After a gruelling three setter against Polona Hercog, Halep has enjoyed two straight set wins. Pliskova’s been pushed hard but she continues to be the most reliable and consistent player on the WTA tour, reaching at least the quarter-finals of all the big events this year. The question mark still remains as to whether she can beat the best at the ends of tournaments in these kinds of matches. I am expecting a close match. I still think the match-up favours Halep and I think her relentlessness from the baseline will be key.
So it looks like that it is now official that the Hopman Cup is no more. I’m feeling very bitter about it. I’m glad that it seems Perth will keep some tennis but I am hoping that the ATP cup will crash and burn 🤣. I will give it no attention whatsoever. I’m happy that I got to experience the Hopman Cup in person. I’ve got my Switzerland flag up in my kitchen 🤗.