Miami Open: Halep comes from behind to defeat Hercog in marathon match

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No.2 seed Simona Halep of Romania came back from the brink at the Miami Open on Sunday, edging past lucky loser Polona Hercog of Slovenia, 5-7, 7-6(1), 6-2, to squeak into the fourth round.

“It was not easy at all,” Halep said, during her post-match press conference. “I think the level was very, very high. [Hercog] played unbelievable. If she keeps playing like this, she can be Top 20 easy. I think it was a great match for both of us. I’m really happy I could win it in the end. It was a lot of effort today.”

World No.93 Hercog had beaten Halep in their only previous encounter, but that came a decade ago at a Challenger event in Sofia. Nevertheless, Hercog was a tiebreak win away from retaining her undefeated record against Halep, before the former World No.1 turned the match around and claimed the grueling win after two hours and 49 minutes of play, wtatennis.com informs.

Each player won 69 percent of points on their first serves, though Halep got 73 percent of her first serves into play, while Hercog got just slightly over half of those into the box. Halep was also more effective on her second serve, and she held 13 break points during the encounter, converting four of those chances to eke out the victory.

“First two sets were tough because [Hercog] was serving very, very strong,” Halep continued. “Also both shots, forehand, backhand, slice actually, it was really tough to get some points. She didn’t miss. So it was really difficult. It was a very, very high standard.”

World No.3 Halep, whose best Miami result is a semifinal loss to Serena Williams in 2015, now finds herself in the round of 16 for the fourth time in the last five years. There, she will face three-time Miami Open champion Venus Williams, who dispatched No.14 seed Daria Kasatkina on Sunday. They have split their six meetings, but Halep has won their last three matches after losing the first three.

“It’s always tough against Venus,” Halep admitted. “I’m not going to say that it’s going to be easier because I won the last matches against her.”

“I will be motivated,” Halep added. “I will be ready to play. Hopefully I will be 100 percent tomorrow. Why not, I will believe that I have the chance. Still, I will stay focused.”

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