MIAMI, March 24, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
While Caroline Garcia put together the kind of match she’s been longing to achieve, one has to wonder if Serena Williams can play a full tournament in good health?
On Saturday afternoon at the Miami Open presented by Itaú, the No. 19 Garcia of France defeated No. 15 Julia Goerges of Germany, 6-0, 7-5, to reach the fourth round of the tournament for the first time. However, a few hours after Garcia’s triumph, Williams, an eight-time Miami Open champion, pulled out of the WTA Premier Mandatory event citing a left knee injury. With Williams’ withdrawal, No. 18 seed Wang Qiang will advance to the fourth round by walkover.
In a statement released by the Miami Open, Williams said, “I am disappointed to withdraw from the Miami Open due to a left knee injury. It was an amazing experience to play at the Hard Rock Stadium this year and I would like to thank the Miami Open for putting on an amazing event. I hope to be back next year to play at this one-of-a-kind tournament in front of the incredible fans here in Miami.”
Tennis Channel analyst Chanda Rubin, in reacting to the news of Williams’ withdrawal, said, “It’s a disappointment for the tournament as well as for the fans who won’t get to see her play.”
It marks the second straight tournament that Williams’ health has been an issue. She retired from her third-round match against Garbiñe Muguruza in the second set at Indian Wells earlier this month due to a viral illness.
Meanwhile, Garcia improved her career head-to-head against Goerges, a native of Bad Oldesloe, Germany, to 3-0. She won 76 percent of her service points on seven easy holds of serve and lost just 13 points on her serve. Garcia saved all six break points she faced and she broke her opponent four times, including thrice in the opening set. She outpointed Goerges, the 2018 Wimbledon semifinalist, 66-42.
— WTA (@WTA) 23. März 2019
“When you get a win, it makes you more confident and proves that the hard work and direction you’re taking is good,” said Garcia, as quoted by WTATennis.com. “I won’t stop working because we’re continuing to do a good job.”
Garcia achieved a career-best ranking of No. 4 last September. Since then, she’s struggled and started 2019 with a 5-6 win-loss record that caused her ranking to drop to No. 19. “We’re always trying to understand and take new experiences. I have to keep believing in myself, be more relaxed and enjoy it.”
Garcia’s victory, coming on the heels of her Thursday night win over former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, sets up a fourth-round encounter against World No. 2 and No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who advanced over No. 26 Donna Vekic of Croatia, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
No. 1 Osaka upset by Zen master Hsieh
What a day for an upset! World No. 1 and top seed Naomi Osaka lost to the deceptive but delightfully entertaining Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3, on Stadium court. Osaka had the third-round match on her racquet, ahead 6-4, 5-4 30-love, against the No. 27 seed. But she couldn’t close it out. Every time that Osaka hit the ball harder, Hsieh hit it earlier. The Zen master remained cool, calm and collected while Osaka did not.
Osaka racked up 38 unforced errors throughout the two hour and 18 minute match. She missed several makeable forehand returns, which resulted in her service being broken three times in the final set. Simply, she was outplayed by the 33-year-old Hsieh – 12 years her senior – who plays two-handed both ways. The loss ended an incredible streak in which Osaka won 63 straight matches after winning the first set.
Hsieh Su-Wei continues to slay at the @MiamiOpen
She stuns World No.1 Osaka, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3! pic.twitter.com/WnqXgNQoxj
— WTA (@WTA) 23. März 2019
“Wow, this is so amazing that I made it,” said Hsieh during an on-court interview after beating Osaka for the first time in three meetings.
In the past eight months, Hsieh has defeated Osaka, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova, which represents a very good resumé of achievements. As she proved on another sunny, South Florida afternoon, Hsieh is loads of fun to watch, but so miserable to face on the other side of the net.
Next, Hsieh will face No. 13 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. The 2018 Australian Open champion held off Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu, who saved four match points during a second set tie-break before succumbing, 6-4, 7-6 (4) on the Grandstand court. Wozniacki saved 12 of 15 break points she faced and won all four of her break-point opportunities against the 138th-ranked Niculescu. It prompted the WTA Insider to tweet about Wozniacki: “Kept her head and footwork was great in the face of everything Niculescu threw at her. Good preparation for her next round: Hsieh Su-Wei.”
Around the women’s draw
• No. 12 seed Ashleigh Barty easily advanced over fellow Australian Sam Stosur, 6-0, 6-3, in just 58 minutes on Butch Buchholz Court. Barty benefited from eight serve aces and five breaks of serve. She dropped just 15 points on her serve as she outpointed Stosur 58-32. Later, Barty and Victoria Azarenka, who received a wild card entry in the doubles draw, upset the No. 1 seeds, Barbora Krejickova and Katerina Siniakova, of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-7 (1), 10-7.
• No. 7 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands came back to beat No. 48 Victoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, 3-6, 6-0, 6-1. She finished with 14 service aces and missed just four first serves in the final set in advancing to the fourth round against Barty.
• No. 21 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia defeated No. 40 Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (4) to move into the fourth round.
March on Wang Yafan
It’s been quite the month of March for Wang Yafan of China. As one of four players with the Wang surname playing in Miami, Wang Yafan recently won the title at Acapulco, and on Friday night, she defeated No. 6 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 6-2, 6-4, to move into the third round. The victory was just her fifth career match against a Top 10 player. Next, she’ll face No. 25 seed Danielle Collins of the United States, who beat 16-year-old American wild card Whitney Osuigwe, 7-6 (5), 6-0 Friday night at about the same that Wang took out Svitolina.
“I’m really excited,” Wang told WTATennis.com after beating Svitolina. “I didn’t think too much for this match, win or lose. I just tried to enjoy and play my best tennis.
“I know she’s Top 10, so for me, there was nothing to lose.”
Just 24, Wang Yafan made her Top 100 debut nearly a year ago and finished the 2018 season with a career-best ranking of No. 73. Since then, she’s improved to No. 50.
“I didn’t think I could play like this, the start to this year,” Wang said. “I’m happy I can start like this and I think I can play better this year, like now.”
Age ain’t nothing but a number
On Thursday, at just 15 years, 18 days, Cori “Coco” Gauff became the youngest player to win a WTA main draw match since Madison Keys (14 years, 54 days) in 2009 at Ponte Vedra Beach. Gauff, who received a wild card entry at the Miami Open, defeated fellow America junior Cathy McNally, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
According to the WTA Insider, Gauff spent plenty of time on the practice courts this week and hit with Monica Puig, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Andrea Petkovic. “I was actually able to level up to them, and that kind of gave me confidence, know that I’m young and they have been on tour for years. They’re not blowing me off the court, so that helped,” she said.
After her second-round win on Friday, Serena Williams was asked about Gauff and said she “loves” Gauff’s game. She offered this bit of advice and wisdom to the budding player: “Don’t be me, be better.
“It’s super cool. I love her. I love her game. She’s just fun. She seems super cool. But it’s great. That’s what we play for ultimately, is to not only be remembered but to inspire other people to want to play not as good as you but better. For me, it’s all about don’t be me, be better than me. That’s what I always try to say.”
While it’s been said that age ain’t nothing but a number, consider this: Thirty-eight-year-old Venus Williams made her Miami Open debut in 1997, which was seven years before Gauff was born.
What they’re saying
Julia Goerges made a last-minute decision to play doubles in Miami with former World No. 1 Simona Halep with no regrets. “It’s a great combination with her at the baseline and me being active at the net,” she told WTATennis.com. “I think we proved that it’s a good combination today, and we had a lot of fun, which is the most important thing.” Goerges and Halep knocked out the No. 2 seeds, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, 4-6, 6-1, 10-6.
What they’re tweeting
If days off during the Miami Open are for discovering things, why not escape to the beach. That’s exactly what Alizé Cornet of France did on her day off Saturday.
Days off are for discovering 👀 Hollywood beach it’s nice to meet you ☀️🌴🏖😊 pic.twitter.com/AuVC8Lr1DW
— Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) 23. März 2019
Saturday’s singles results
No. 27 Hsieh Su-Wei d. No. 1 Naomi Osaka, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3
No. 13 Caroline Wozniacki d. Q-Monica Niculescu, 6-4, 7-6 (4)
No. 21 Anett Kontaveit d. Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 7-6 (4)
No. 3 Petra Kvitova d. No. 26 Donna Vekic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
No. 19 Caroline Garcia d. No. 15 Julia Goerges, 6-0, 7-5
No. 12 Ashleigh Barty d. Samantha Stosur, 6-0, 6-3
No. 7 Kiki Bertens d. Victoria Kuzmova, 3-6, 6-0, 6-1
Bianca Andreescu d. No. 8 Angelique Kerber, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1