Miami Open 2015: Serena Williams to face first-time finalist Suarez Navarro
Serena Williams battles past Simona Halep to reach the final of the Miami Open against Carla Suarez Navarro
The numbers continue to stack up for Serena Williams, the best tennis player on the women’s tour and arguably one of the best ever to pick up racket.
She already owns seven Miami Open titles, a record, and is on course to claim her eighth—and her third in a row—this weekend.
In reaching the semis on her home Floridian turf, she notched up her 700th match-win—though when the cake appeared on court after her thriller against Sabine Lisicki, she thought is was someone’s birthday!
She is already guaranteed to keep the No1 ranking, which she has held unbroken for over two years, until the Madrid Premier, taking her to the third-best streak in WTA history: She will overtake Chris Evert’s 113 weeks.
So dominant is the 33-year-old that she remains unbeaten this season, indeed unbeaten since the round-robin phase of the WTA Championships in Singapore—and that last loss came to the woman she would now face for a place in the Miami final, world No3 Simona Halep.
The two women, separated by a decade in age, had been the form players of the season. For while Williams was unbeaten, and had won the first Grand Slam of 2015 in Australia, Halep had won three titles, including Indian Wells last week, for a 24-2 run thus far.
And this latest meeting was as close as that form predicted.
Williams imposed her power game in the first set almost immediately, breaking for 3-1 and then again for the set, 6-2, having made 13 winners to only seven errors.
In the second, she and Halep stood toe-to-toe until 4-4, when Halep converted the only break point of the set and served it out, 6-4.
The third set looked like a runaway win for Williams at 3-0 and then 5-2, but Halep is one of the gutsiest, quickest, all-court battlers in the women’s game, and fought back to 5-5. However, she could not hold off the defending champion, and Williams broke to love to take the match, 7-5
Separated by age and a mountain of experience, the two produced and demanded great tennis from one another—and clearly have enormous respect for one another, too.
Williams on Halep: “She plays so well, and it’s so good to see her play so well. She’s so young, and I love watching her play. I’m actually a fan of hers. I really like her attitude on the court. I like how she gets pumped up. I like how she fights. I like how she plays. I just think it’s fun to watch and it’s different: it’s definitely a refreshing type of game.”
Halep on Williams: “I’ve been [a fan] for a long time. I’ve learned many things from her. When she won a Grand Slam I was a kid, and I like watching her, how she’s playing and fighting until the end. She’s still No1 and winning titles, so it’s amazing.”
Halep even admitted, before the match, that she could not visualise attaining No1 herself while Williams was still playing.
For Williams, the victory marked 20 match-wins in a row and 17 wins in Miami in a row, as well as her 101st top-10 victory.
She will take on another petite woman breaking new ground with every month she plays, the 26-year—old No12 seed, Carla Suarez Navarro. The 5ft 4in Spaniard played No10 Andrea Petkovic, against whom she was meant to contest the Antwerp in February final until forced to withdraw with neck injury.
Suarez Navarro had reached her first Premier Mandatory semi-final in great style—building on her fine form this season—with wins over No22 seed Alize Cornet, No7 Agnieszka Radwanska and No16, former champion Venus Williams.
And her hustling, bustling tennis, highlighted by an unexpected but lovely single-handed backhand, took her through the tall, rangy power of Petkovic without facing a break point, 6-3, 6-3. She was, naturally, delighted: “I feel so happy. It’s so important for me. I was practising and working all year with my team for a moment like this.”
It guarantees that the unassuming Spaniard will take on the ultimate seed in her first Premier final and also that she will break the top 10 for the first time. It’s a just reward for one of the more under-rated women on the tour:
However, Suarez Navarro has yet to win in four previous matches against Williams, has yet to win a set, has yet even to score more than five games in a match against Williams.
It is a mountain to climb.