2021 WTA Miami, Day 3 Highlights: Konjuh’s inspiring comeback, Sabalenka survives Pironkova nailbiter

The seeds came out to play on Thursday as the second round matches from the top half of the draw took centre stage.  It was much needed after a pretty subdued start to the tournament. Not a fan of the Miami draw format with the seeds all receiving byes in the first round and qualifying overlapping with the start of the main draw. The tournament finally gathered pace on Thursday with some super matches. Four of the five top 10 seeds in action lost a set and two of them saved match points! Read on for my diary from Thursday’s action in Miami.

Day 3๏ธโƒฃ Highlights

Ana Konjuh d. (18) Madison Keys, 6-4 6-2

What an inspiring, feel-good story. There was a wonderful post on the WTA website which I shared in yesterday’s post that detailed Konjuh’s injury woes. The 23-year-old has had four surgeries on her troublesome elbow and spent the best part of three years on the sidelines. Konjuh returned to action in September last year at a $25K ITF event. She qualified for the main draw in Dubai and now in Miami, she’s not only won her first main draw match but back-to-back and in style with a first top 20 win since Wimbledon 2017!

Despite Konjuh’s lack of match play, I don’t think this was a huge surprise because Keys has had a rough start to 2021. I’ve missed watching Konjuh play. Few hit the ball as huge as she does. In this match, I thought it was more about the mental game, winning the mini battles and playing a much steadier match than Keys. Konjuh returned extremely well and was both calm and controlled as she advanced past an increasingly frustrated, Keys.

I will never tire of these amazing stories that tennis produces. Fills your heart with joy!

(7) Aryna Sabalenka d. Tsvetana Pironkova, 0-6 6-3 7-6(9)

Sabalenka rallied from a bagel opening set, 1-3 down in the second set, 2-5 down in third set and saved two match points in an absolutely BONKERS third set tiebreak to beat Pironkova in two hours and 29 minutes. I need a stiff drink ๐Ÿ˜‚.

This match floored me. Sabalenka was out-of-sorts for a set and a half as Pironkova yielded her magic and ripped on the return. Sabalenka barely stayed in contention in the second set, finding her first serve in the nick of time as she caught a hot streak to grab the second set. Both players were struggling physically in the final set. Pironkova looked worried between the second and third sets as she had the trainer on for an arm injury. Sabalenka pulled up with her leg serving during the third set and then later on seemed to be having issues with her breathing?

The two points that stick with me were both Sabalenka backhands – serving at *4-5 *30-30 in the third set, Sabalenka nailed a backhand winner down-the-line. In an even more critical moment, down match point at 7-8 in the third set tiebreak, Sabalenka hit another thunderous backhand winner down-the-line. Bold doesn’t even cut it! The good, the bad and the ugly from Sabalenka. What a courageous performance though. After some bruising three set losses, Sabalenka snapped a streak of four consecutive three set losses to win her first three set match of 2021. A rollercoaster match that had me screaming after practically every point. Fabulous entertainment.

(5) Elina Svitolina d. Shelby Rogers, 3-6 7-5 6-2

This was a bizarre match that I couldn’t make much sense of. I wonder if the heat and humidity had something to do with it. Even more confusing was the drunk stats that suggested both players hit more winners than unforced errors. Really?!

The winner of each set came from a break down to win it. Rogers won six straight games from 1-3 down in the first set to go up a set and a break. Midway through the first set,Svitolina suddenly looked vulnerable on serve and had a medical time-out in between the first and second sets for a wrist injury to reel off six straight games. Svitolina showed impressive resolve, steadied the ship on serve and went into lockdown mode as she came through in three against an increasingly frazzled and error-strewn, Rogers.

My terrible run of predicting Svitolina upsets continues! Not feeling too confident for Svitolina’s further progression at this tournament with the wrist. She also seemed to pull up with her knee late on in the second set.

(15) Iga Swiatek d. Barbora Krejcikova, 6-4 6-2

The ingredients were all there for a super clash between two in-form players. It didn’t really come to fruition as Swiatek beat a slow-starting, Krejcikova in straight sets. Swiatek was in cruise control, quickly going up 5-1. From set point up, Swiatek inexplicably went off the rails as Krejcikova won 11 straight points and three straight games.

Swiatek managed to stop the rot and break for the set. Krejcikova did have an early break in the second set. It didn’t last long as Swiatek broke straight back and then returned to her first set cruise level as she eased into the third round. I have good vibes about Swiatek so we’ll soon see whether I have cursed Iga. Next up is Ana Konjuh.

Best of the rest ๐ŸŽพ

The world number one, Ash Barty, saved a match point as she rallied from 2-5 down in the third set to beat Kristina Kucova, 6-3 4-6 7-5. I was busy watching Sabalenka-Pironkova as had stupidly assumed this would be one-way traffic. Rookie error!

The number three seed, Simona Halep had a medical time-out for her arm in the second set but fought back from a set and a break down to beat Caroline Garcia, 3-6 6-4 6-0.

The only other seed to fall apart from Madison Keys was Coco Gauff. In the last match of the day, Anastasija Sevastova recovered from a set down to beat Gauff, 1-6 6-2 6-3.

Super stat ๐Ÿ”ข

Great stat from Jeff Sackmann at Tennis Abstract. 100% record for Sabalenka after losing the first set, 6-0!

Recommended media ๐Ÿ“บ

Match points saved…

Recommended reading ๐Ÿ“š

Interesting article about the Harvard courses that WTA players have taken with a focus on Jo Konta, Garbiรฑe Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki. My mum shared this with me and she revels in finding anything tennis related that I haven’t seen ๐Ÿ˜‚ .

Day 4 watchlist ๐Ÿ“บ

(28) Amanda Anisimova vs. Sloane Stephens (3rd up on Butch Buchholz))

(21) Elena Rybakina vs. Kaia Kanepi (2nd up on Court 3)

(13) Jennifer Brady vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo (5th up on Butch Buchholz))

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2 thoughts on “2021 WTA Miami, Day 3 Highlights: Konjuh’s inspiring comeback, Sabalenka survives Pironkova nailbiter

  1. I really hope the bottom half can deliver some exciting 2nd round matches and set up some awesome 3rd matches!

    The 3rd round matches from the top half are what we would see in the late stages of a grand slam in
    Kerber vs Vika (my favourite WTA matchup)! Hoping we see something like WTA Finals 2012, US Open 2015 or 2016 AUS Open
    Ostapenko vs Barty which should be a very interesting clash! Canโ€™t remember the last time they played one another..
    Kvitova vs Konta will be good!
    Vondrousova vs Bencic- both need that deep run in a big tournament
    Halep vs Swiatek is a match Iโ€™m hoping that comes to fruition in the 4th round- really starting to enjoy this matchupโ€™

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment, Dylan. Some great matches to look forward to! Kerber-Vika is also one of my favourite match-ups, their games just seems to gel together. Like you, i couldn’t remember that Barty and Ostpaenko had played each other before. Vondrousova-Bencic should be interesting. I have absolutely no clue how that one will unfold. The potential match-up that i’m most looking forward to will be from the top top section – I would happily watch any one of Barty-Azarenka, Barty-Kerber, Kerber-Ostapenko or Azarenka-Ostapenko!

      Like

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