World number one Simona Halep produced yet another incredible escape in the quarterfinals of the 2018 BNP Paribas Open, coming from 1-3 down in the final set to defeat world number 51 and the giant-killing Petra Martic. The Romanian took a tight first set before dropping the second in a tiebreak, and an early deficit in the decider made everything point towards a shocking loss the top-ranked player.
Nonetheless, the improved mentality of Halep saw her edging this tight contest, sealing her spot in her fourth consecutive semifinal of 2018 and extending her win-loss record to an unbelievable 18-1. It has been an amazing tournament for Martic as well, earning her first top-10 win since 2012 which meant that a top-40 debut ensues. She will face the surprise package in Naomi Osaka there and will look to reach her third final of the year.
Halep steals the tight opening set
A slew of unforced errors started the match for Martic as she struggled to deal with the wind conditions in the early stages. Nine of the opening 10 points went to Halep and the world number one seemed to make it a one-sided affair.
The tricky fifth game finally got things started for Martic, who had to put up some tough fight and show some resilience after she fended off two break points. The world number 51 then closed out the nervy service game with a wonderful drop shot winner, preventing Halep from running away with the set.
However, it was just a dominant display from the servers as no break chances surfaced till the last game when the Romanian served for the set. Fantastic backhand slices from Martic ruined her opponent’s rhythm and threatened to make a breakthrough by extending the game to deuce. Nonetheless, Halep held her nerves and ultimately closed out the set 6-4 with a fortunate net cord winner on her third set point.
Martic produces impressive fightback and takes the second set
Everything seemed to be going Halep’s way with all the momentum running in her, and she went on to earn multiple break points in the opening game of the second set. Nonetheless, some spirited play and stubborn fighting spirit from Martic allowed her to barely hang onto the service game.
Lengthy rallies initiated by the Croatian frustrated Halep and the underdog was able to convert her first break point of the match to take the lead. A monstrous forehand winner allowed Martic to consolidate the break, opening a commanding 3-0 lead. It was smooth sailing for the servers once more, after six consecutive holds saw both parties not making a breakthrough on the return.
Just when it mattered, Martic’s backhand broke down during the critical moments as Halep took advantage of the situation, coming out of nowhere to break straight back and level the scores. The set was ultimately extended into a tiebreak, which was dominated by mini-breaks. The wind conditions were extremely tricky, and a wild forehand error from Halep at 5-6 down paved the way for Martic to steal the second set after 55 minutes of play.
Halep comes up with an unbelievable comeback to triumph
The longest game of the match arrived upon us early in the final set, and Martic had to eke out the tricky service hold after saving three break points. It was shaping up to become a high-quality encounter and the Croatian edged closer towards the huge upset with Halep getting increasingly frustrated with herself after every point lost.
A clean one-two punch from Martic saved a break point and helped her to consolidate the break, opening up a formidable 3-1 advantage as Halep looked in deep trouble when she was brought to deuce in her service game. “After 3-1 I just woke up and I realized I’m not doing the right thing on court. It was good that I could see that and change that,” mentioned Halep during her post-match press conference. From there, she did not lose a game through the remainder of the encounter.
The nerves were visibly kicking in as Martic failed to pounce on her opportunities, allowing Halep to escape with the narrow service hold in the seventh game as the Romanian’s streak continued. Another tight game followed but this time it was Halep who displayed some world-class defense en route to earning the break, alongside the chance to serve out the win. Amidst the wind and huge amount of pressure weighing on her shoulders, the world number one showed nerves of steel and impressively sealed the win after winning five games on the trot.