The quarter-finals of the 2021 Miami Open were played on Tuesday and Wednesday. Three matches went the way of the rankings. The other one certainly didn’t! Read on for my quarter-finals diary with recollections, thoughts and analysis on the first three quarter-finals. Andreescu-Sorribes Tormo was a long one so going to watch that one back later!
(23) Maria Sakkari d. (2) Naomi Osaka, 6-0 6-4 (Wednesday)
In the biggest win of her career, Sakkari abruptly ended Osaka’s winning streak at 23 matches. And in some style! I’m not surprised at the result. Sakkari’s got game and I felt like Osaka was there for the taking after not looking all that convincing in her first two matches in Miami. I certainly didn’t expect that scoreline. There were so many WTF stats from the first set. Sakkari won the opener in 21 minutes for the loss of just eight points. Osaka didn’t hit a winner!
Osaka was flat and subdued for much of the match and wasn’t able to rely on her serve to get her out of the holes she created. Sakkari made a statement on return in the very first game of the match. It was a big factor in why Sakkari won this match as she went after the Osaka second serve. And she got plenty of looks at it with Osaka landing only 41% of first serves in play.
Sakkari’s game went astray at the start of the second set. However, she found her range again, served superbly, went after her shots and was mentally tough, winning the last five games of the match including three games that went to deuce. A win that just further cements the improvements that Sakkari has made to her game in the last year.
(1) Ash Barty d. (7) Aryna Sabalenka, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 (Tuesday)
Barty scored her tenth consecutive win in Miami and levelled up her head-to-head with Sabalenka at 3-3 after what was a closely contested and serve-dominated quarter-final. It had an anticlimactic ending to what was developing into a fascinating third set. Sabalenka was clearly hindered by an abdominal injury after holding serve to 3-3 in the third set. Barty was then ruthless in dispatching Sabalenka, winning 12 of the last 13 points.
For much of the first set and a half, Barty was playing the match on her own terms as she used her slice to control the play and force Sabalenka into awkward positions. I do enjoy this match-up to see Sabalenka’s raw power against Barty’s tactical prowess. Sabalenka competed superbly and turned the second set tiebreak on its head with a thunderous forehand winner down 4-5. I thought Sabalenka was playing her best tennis of the match when the injury was clearly a problem.
The key stat – Barty converted two of four break points, while Sabalenka was zero for seven. Barty’s serve has been absolutely terrific this year and it rescued her on many of the break points. All in all, a supremely steady performance from Barty with very few variations in her level. This is the sixth match in 2021 where Barty has won the first set and then lost the second set. The takeaway though is that Barty has managed to reset and win in three sets in five of those matches.
(5) Elina Svitolina d. Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3 6-2 (Tuesday)
This was Svitolina’s most convincing display of the tournament so far to reach a first semi-final in eight tournaments. It was a potentially sticky match as Svitolina was a clear favourite and up against a tricky opponent who has ran circles around her before. From 3-3 *15-40 down in the first set, Svitolina won nine of the last 11 games.
It was a mostly uneventful match. I thought Svitolina pitched it just about right. She was all over the weak Sevastova serve, managing to break it six out of eight times. Svitolina was comfortable in the rallies. She stepped in to attack on occasion and handled all of Sevastova’s drop shots and trickery very well.
It’s yet another tournament where I have underestimated Elina! While a good run, I wouldn’t say these past few performances have changed my overall outlook on Svitolina.
Best of the rest 🎾
In the last of the quarter-finals, Bianca Andreescu ended the run of Sara Sorribes Tormo. Andreescu won her third three setter in a row, 6-4 3-6 6-3. Sorribes Tormo played five consecutive three setters in Miami!
Hot shot 🔥
Recommended reading 📚
Interesting piece by WTA Insider on Maria Sakkari and coach, Tom Hill. What a great partnership they have.
Semi-final watchlist 📺
(1) Ash Barty vs. (5) Elina Svitolina
(8) Bianca Andreescu vs. (23) Maria Sakkari