A blockbuster meeting between Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka in the second round of the Miami Open looked to be a tight one as their only previous encounter in Paris went three sets, and the outcome was a little unpredictable considering Halep just returned from an injury. Nevertheless, the higher-ranked player came through in another tight three-set match as she prevailed in 1 hour and 58 minutes to seal a place in the third round.
Halep steals the first set
It was a very even start to the match as both players looked to be inseparable on the scoreboard in the early stages, with neither able to make a breakthrough in their return games. The wind seemed to pose a big problem against both players as they had some troubles serving and errors were flying everywhere during the match.
Hoping to exact revenge for her tough loss against the same opponent in the third round of the French Open last year, Osaka was determined to control play from the first point onwards as she knew that she could not afford to be on the defense. It turned out to be like a competition between two big servers as both players were solid on their serves and even a single break point was very difficult to find. It was Halep who had the first real chance of breaking serve in the match as she went to deuce in Osaka’s service game when the score was at 3-3. However, Osaka came up with some strong serves just right in time to fend off the challenge of Halep and hold onto her service game.
The Japanese’s nerves at the end of the first set seemed to get to her as she failed to convert a game point and did not manage to find her first serves at the crucial moment when she allowed Halep to convert on the first break point in the match, gifting the Romanian the lead and the golden opportunity to serve out the set. Halep did just so, successfully completing the job by holding her serve to love and thus clinch the first set 6-4 after just 34 minutes.
Osaka fights back
Just when we thought that the momentum was with Halep after the first set, it was Osaka who held her serve in the opening game of the second set. This was when the rain started to interrupt play as players were forced off the court for a short period of time. Nevertheless, play resumed quickly and Osaka came back from the break firing, breaking serve to love immediately after the resumption of play. Osaka continued to stroll through the second set as she easily consolidated the break of serve with a comfortable service hold to extend her lead to three games, looking on course to level the match.
Halep’s woes continued in the fourth game of the set as Osaka started to hit more precisely, breaking serve once more as she managed to outhit Halep for a formidable 4-0 lead. The Romanian started to make a mini fightback as she got one of the breaks back to lessen the deficit, but it was proved to be in vain as Osaka steered her way to the victory of the second set in just 32 minutes, leveling the match at one set all.
Halep hold her nerves, prevails eventually
After an exchange of service holds to start the final set with, there was a marathon third game of the match as Halep prevailed in a 16-points game, saving two game points along the way to take the early lead in the deciding set. However, Halep failed to hold onto this lead for a long period of time as Osaka made the reply in the sixth game after the third seed threw in a double fault on break point to gift the advantage back and allow Osaka to make the scores level once more.
Despite visibly being frustrated with herself, Halep did not let her emotions get to her as she maintained her composure to make an immediate reply, taking advantage of Osaka’s second serves to break straight back and regain the lead. However, this was when another rain delay came into play as this time, players were forced off court for more a longer period of time. After a short warm-up when both players returned to the court, Halep was serving with the advantage in the eighth game as she looked to consolidate the break of serve.
She comfortably did so as she held serve to 15, placing herself just one game away from the victory and leaving Osaka on the brink of defeat. With the momentum running in her, Halep soon closed out the victory on an excellent return winner off a weak second serve of Osaka, sealing the deal in just under two hours to progress to the third round and gain some confidence through this match.