Halep Garners 400th Main Draw Win In Miami

Simona Halep (photo: courtesy of Miami Open presented by Itaú video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 26, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Simona Halep garnered her 400th main draw victory Thursday evening at the Miami Open presented by Itaú, but it didn’t come easy. The World No. 3 from Romania rallied from down a set and a break against No. 51 Caroline Garcia and beat the Frenchwoman for the seventh time in eight career meetings, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0, in one hour and 48 minutes on Court 1.

Halep, seeded third in Miami, won the final seven games of the match. She hit 26 winners to 16 unforced errors and won five of 10 break point opportunities against Garcia, who committed 26 unforced errors. Halep, who was broken just once, outpointed her opponent 84-70.

“It was a good match in my opinion,” said Halep, who will meet No. 57 Anastasija Sevastova in the third round after the Latvia took out 36th-ranked American teenager Coco Gauff, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. “She started very well and her first serve bothered me a lot, the kick. So, I needed time to get used to it and to get the rhythm. I struggled with my serve, I struggled with my shoulder a little bit. The attention a little bit was on the pain. So, I started to relax myself and to try to not think about the results, just to loosen up the arm, the body and, then, I started to move a little bit more to the forehand. I got the confidence I could come back.”

Korda makes big splash in Miami debut

#NextGenATP American rising star Sebastian Korda made his Miami Open debut a memorable one against No. 77 Radu Albot. He dropped just three games against the Moldovan and won 6-3, 6-0 in 74 minutes. It was Korda’s first ATP Tour Masters 1000 victory.

The 87th-ranked Korda broke Albot four times and hit 24 winners – 16 of them from the forehand side – and was all smiles after the match, a win witnessed by his father and coach, Petr, as well as his mother and two sisters, who formed their own cheering section in the socially-distanced atmosphere of the Grandstand court. (Attendance is being capped at this year’s Miami Open to about 1,000 spectators per day.)

Interviewed by the ATP Tour website, Korda said “I love playing at night. I’ve only played two day matches this whole year. I love playing at night, and I love playing in South Florida. I’m super pleased with how I played today.”

Earlier this season, Korda was runner-up to Hubert Hurkacz in the Delray Beach Open by Vitacost.com.

Defending champion Barty lives to play another day

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, playing her first WTA match outside of her native Australia in 13 months, saved a third-set match point against 149th-ranked qualifier Kristina Kucova of Slovakia, down 5-3 40-30, and pulled a great escape that would have made Houdini proud. She went on to win, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 – capturing the last five games of the nearly two- and one-half-hour Grandstand match. Next, Barty will oppose No. 54 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, who took out 94th-ranked lucky loser Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.

Barty, improved to 25-1 in matches in which she’s hit 10 or more aces – she hit 15 against Kucova. According to the WTA, this is only the ninth time since 2008 in which a player has hit 15 or more aces with zero double faults.

During her virtual press conference about an hour after the match, Barty had a chance to collect her thoughts and shared them in her usual upbeat aplomb. A common question asked from different angles by several writers centered around what Barty learned from a match like she had just been through, one she easily could have lost.

“Just never give up. Honestly you have to be in the fight to have a chance. It’s about trying to just chip away over and over,” Barty said.

You know, matches like that are extremely fulfilling, I think, knowing that you have done the work over an extended period to kind of just get over the edge and just get that result that you’re after.

“Today was much more about the fight than the result, but certainly happy now to be able to give myself another chance in a couple days’ time to be able to go again.”

Epic turnaround victory for Sabalenka

World No. 8 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus survived two match points in the decisive final set tie break against 131st-ranked Bulgarian qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova before finally eking out a 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9) victory to move into the third round.

Pironkova was in search of her first Top 10 victory since the 2016 French Open. Instead, it was Sabalenka who moves into the third round against No. 32 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who beat No. 40 Danielle Collins of the United States, 6-3, 6-2. She overcame 11 doubles faults and six breaks of her service to prevail.

After the match, during her on-court interview, Sabalenka said: “Since a young age, my parents keep telling me, ‘it doesn’t matter what goes on in the court, you just have to fight, and if you fight, you will get the wins.”

Kvitova dominant in win over Cornet

World No. 10 Petra Kvitova started her second-round match against 61st-ranked Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet by serving up a 6-0 bagel set in a swift and efficient 16 minutes. She finished the win about 48 minutes later, winning the match 6-0, 6-4 to advance to the third round.

The ninth seed from the Czech Republic, who three weeks ago won the Qatar Total Open title in Doha, hit 26 winners to just eight unforced errors, won 77 percent of her first serve points, broke Cornet five times and outpointed her 62-32.

“I started the match very well and was pretty focused,” Kvitova said during her interview on court after the victory. “I feel great, I’m happy I can be here competing in Miami, again, after two years.”

Around the Hard Rock Stadium

Thursday’s Miami Open results – WTA

Thursday’s Miami Open results – ATP

Friday’s Miami Open order of play

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Simona Halep on being told by Tennis TourTalk she achieved her 400th career main draw victory Thursday night in Miami with her victory over Caroline Garcia: “Wow! That’s impressive! Thanks for letting me know. (laughter) I’m really happy to hear that. I think it’s impressive I have won so many matches on the main draw. I have many years there in the top also. I can feel a little bit tired of all the pressure I’ve had. I can also feel like with more experience and when I face tough moments, I know what to do. It’s from those 400 victories.”

Tennis TourTalk asked Ashleigh Barty whether she will spend a lot of time breaking down or re-watching her 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 win over Kristina Kucova, in which she saved a match point late in the third set and came back to win:

“I have probably watched two of my matches ever, and both of them were near a year after they were completed.

“But it’s certainly – I mean, Tyz (Craig Tyzzer, Barty’s coach) and I already had the discussion about it, about the match. We sit down straight after and obviously we go through some

of the clear things that happened, we go through some of my feelings, and then obviously the observations of Tyz from the sidelines is often different to how I’m feeling on the court.

“So, it’s about marrying those up. We’ll continue to chat about it over the next couple of days, without a doubt. Like I said, we take the learnings from it. We never stop learning.

“On the practice court tomorrow, we’ll chat about it some more and work on a couple of things that we felt like we needed to refine from today. But the beauty of sport is there is always another chance. There is always next week. Fortunately, we have another opportunity in a couple days’ time to go back out there, use those learnings, use that experience, and go again.”

By the numbers

WTA announces adjustments to its rankings system

On Thursday, the WTA announced adjustments to the WTA Ranking system “to account for the continued schedule modifications affecting the Tour calendar following the 2020 pandemic-shortened season.”

In a press release, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon stated, “The WTA has worked closely with the WTA Players’ Council, players, and WTA Board over the past several months to identify appropriate changes to the WTA Rankings that will help serve as a pathway to return to the traditional 52-week WTA Ranking system.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Get well soon, Stan

Vasek Pospisil / Mea culpa