After her second round win, Catherine Bellis was asked how she would approach an encounter with Serena Williams “it’s going to be really fun. I’m just going to play my game and see what happens. . .it’s just another opponent”. The 15 year old got the memo today that Williams is not ‘just another opponent’. The world number one required only 41 minutes to crush the youngster 6-1, 6-1 and stay on track for her eighth Miami Open title.
The 19 time major winner said in reference to her teenage counterpart “If you break down her age, her ability, how well she handled the moment and how well she played, I think it was good.. It wasn’t like, Oh, I’m so happy to win this match. . .it was tough. . .she’s young and her being an American, you want to see people like her do well. So when you’re up against them you have to kind of put that aside. Even though I’m always cheering for her.”
Williams was sympathetic toward her competitor “I never played that well at 15 to play the professionals, I was at school. I wasn’t good enough. . I turned pro at 15 and lost 1-1 to Anne Miller . . .I didn’t play for another two years. So, yeah, I think she’s doing really well.”
Bubbly and smiling after the match, Bellis reflected “I was pretty nervous, she’s number one in the world and the best of all time for a reason. It was just a really good experience for the future. . . I have never played her before, never seen her in person, just on TV, she’s my idol. . .the stadium is huge. I like that kind of stuff, it was fun. . .She definitely hits really hard. . .[this match] was an eye opener for sure>”
In the fourth round, Williams collides with Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian hung on against Angelique Kerber to win in three sets.
World number three and 2014 French Open finalist Simona Halep kept her dream of a back to back premier event trophy alive with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Camila Giorgi.
This grandstand match was a roller coaster ride. At two all in the initial set, the Italian committed three double faults on three of four points in the fifth game to gift Halep the break. Although Giorgi quickly reestablished parity, a sleuth of miscues in the ninth game resulted in another break which was the difference in that set.
In the second set, Halep and Giorgi traded multiple breaks. At 5-4, Halep served for the match and could not shut the door. Subsequent, to benefiting from a seventh break courtesy of various mistakes by Giorgi including an 11th double fault, on her second try, Halep got the win.
Following her first meeting with Giorgi who shocked Maria Sharapova last year at Indian Wells, Halep commented “it was a strange match because she hits very strong and very fast. . .I didn’t have time sometimes to adapt. . .But I just tried to move my legs more and just to be aggressive. . .I’m happy that I could win. She’s a tough opponent.”
Halep hoisted the most prestigious trophy of her career last week at Indian Wells. Today, the Romanian got her maiden fourth round berth at the Miami Open “I like to play here. . .I come from Indian Wells . . .and I have more confidence. I’m just trying to keep my mind very focused and to recover my body every day. . .I feel a little bit tired, but it’s normal. . .I’m just looking forward to improve more in my shots, and I just want to hit the serve better and better day by day.”
Halep’s fan club is growing daily. Despite Giorgi’s Argentinian connection, her parents are from there, the Romanian loyalists were the most vocal “everywhere I go I have many Romanians supporting me. I can say it’s amazing . . .I can hear my name on court. So it’s really nice. . .gives me more power to fight.”
On stadium court, Victoria Azarenka faced 2014 Indian Wells champion Flavia Pennetta. In the seventh game, with some bold play, Pennetta salvaged two break points to push ahead 4-3. Later, by smoking a forehand crosscourt pass by the Belarusian on triple break point, Pennetta was at 5-3. However, serving for the set, Pennetta faltered. The set’s owner was decided by a tiebreaker. The Italian capitalized on her third mini-break to pocket the set.
The second set was almost a mirror image to the prior. Pennetta banked on triple break point in the seventh game for 4-3. Still, Azarenka managed to recover and get to a tiebreaker. But, it would not be the two time champion’s day as a composed Pennetta went on to prevail.
In the next round, Halep collides with Pennetta. Eighteen year old Belinda Bencic joins the fourth round for the first time at the Miami Open. She takes on Sloane Stephens who was victorious in straight sets. Garbine Muguruza fell short against 2013 French Open finalist Sara Errani. Errani will play either Sabine Lisicki or Ana Ivanovic.