Jo Konta’s campaign at the Miami Open presented by Itaú ended in the 3rd round with a disappointing loss to Petra Kvitova late on Saturday night, while, earlier in the day, Ana Konjuh upset Iga Swiatek and Elina Svitolina swept past Ekaterina Alexandrova.
I just appreciate things more right now. When you’re just hitting the ball, and then there’s a possibility you might never play again…it kind of puts things in perspective. Ana Konjuh
In the rain-delayed but much anticipated match, two-times Wimbledon champion Kvitova ended the former Miami champion’s hopes of further progress in clinical fashion, 6-1 6-2, maintaining her spotless record over Konta on hard courts.
17th-seeded Brit won the biggest title of her career to date at the 2017 Miami Open, but she could not sink her teeth into this nightcap against Kvitova.
It took the Czech No 9 seed just under an hour to put away Konta, scoring a clean win and striking 19 winners to 12 unforced errors alongside 5 aces with no double-faults in the process.
While Konta delivered 4 aces herself, and a single double-fault, Kvitova did not face a single break point in the contest, and nearly doubled the total points won by the Brit, at 51 to 27.
The match ended the 5th day of action at the Hard Rock Stadium, and saw the 3rd round play completed in the top half of the women’s draw.
Starting off the match on the Grandstand with a hold of serve to 30, Kvitova placed her foot on the gas as she took the next 8 points in succession to go up 3-0.
Konta did get on the scoreboard at that stage, but it would turn out to be the sole game the Brit bagged in the set.
Excellent volleys coupled with strong returning gave the Czech the edge, and she cruised to the one-set lead from there, with just 4 unforced errors in the opener.
Konta could not turn the momentum in her favour as the second set started, double-faulting to drop serve in the first game of the frame and there was no stopping Kvitova from there.
Five service holds down the road, and now up 4-2, Kvitova was just 2 games away from the win when she turned the screw on Konta again after the British No 1 netted a backhand on break point.
Serving for the win, Kvitova raced off to 3 match points and converted on her second chance, closing it out when Konta sent her backhand out wide.
The Czech’s scintillating performance, which was over in 58 minutes, also saw her exact revenge for her Wimbledon defeat at this same stage back in 2019.
Despite Konta possessing the far better first serve percentage between them in the match, 65% to 51%, Kvitova was the better player in playing the points, racking a 78% success rate on serve, winning 86% and 70% of points behind her first and second deliveries, respectively.
Kvitova, who has only dropped 7 games in her first 2 matches, and has now reached the Miami round of 16 for the 4th time in her career, next takes on familiar opposition in the No 5 seed Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine, who came through her 3rd round encounter with Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, seeded 30, 7-6(1) 6-4.
Earlier in the day, Victoria Azarenka, the No 14 seed from Belarus, beat Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the 24th seed, 7-5 6-2, to set up a 4th-round meeting with World No 1 and former doubles partner Ashleigh Barty from Australia.
Defending champion Barty, who will retain the top ranking if she reaches the final, beat Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3 6-2.
Third seed Simona Halep from Romania, however, withdrew from her match against another Latvian, Anastasija Sevastova, with a right shoulder injury.
“I’m very sorry I have to pull out of singles and doubles at the Miami Open, but my injury doesn’t let me play here as I expected. I’m sad that I can’t continue,” Halep said. “I wanted to come here to give my best and play many matches but unfortunately I can’t.”
Following her opening 3-set win over Caroline Garcia, Halep disclosed her shoulder problem first surfaced during the 2nd round of the Australian Open in which she rallied from 1-5 down in a deciding set to edge Ajla Tomljanovic.
“When I came here I didn’t feel pain anymore. I was really good,” she said on Thursday. “But then I practiced some tough sets with other players and I started to feel again. And now it’s getting a little bit worse.”
Halep was projected to meet Poland’s Iga Swiatek in the round of 16, but the Roland Garros champion lost to Ana Konjuh from Croatia, 6-4 2-6 6-2.
Konjuh, who was wild-carded into the draw, was a 2016 US Open quarter-finalist, but then underwent 4 surgeries on her right elbow.
“That saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,’ it’s kinda true,” Konjuh said.
She began her week in Miami by posting her first WTA main draw win since 2018 when she beat Czech Katerina Siniakova and then eliminated No 18 seed Madison Keys from the USA.
Adding Swiatek to her list of scalps, the 23-year-old is now a win away from reaching her second career quarter-final at a WTA 1000-level tournament.
The Croatian has quickly become a big story this week because she has been missing for 3 years after reaching a peak WTA ranking of No 20 in 2017.
She says she sees the game and her career differently now than she did when she was 17 or 18.
“I just appreciate things more right now,” she said. “When you’re just hitting the ball, and then there’s a possibility you might never play again…it kind of puts things in perspective.”
She is signalling that she is back and in excellent form, striking 40 winners against a somewhat bewildered Swiatek.
She also fired 10 aces and pushed Swiatek to the limit with 14 break points, converting 4, before Konjuh closed out the match for a dominant 3rd-set win, losing just 2 games in the decider, and powering down 6 of her aces in the process.
Working with her coach, Antonio Veic, she is trying to bring a more mature approach to her game.
She has always had the firepower, but now she wants to deploy it more patiently and efficiently.
“Being smart about it,” she explained, “Not going for the killer shots at the moments they’re not there for.”
Konjuh knows that being smart doesn’t mean safe or tentative, and she knew that against the equally aggressive Swiatek, she had to seize her opportunities.
“I have to stay offensive,” Konjuh told herself. “I can’t give her time to hit her forehand.”
Konjuh hit 40 winners against just 18 errors, and she didn’t let Swiatek uncork that forehand and take control of rallies with it.
“I think Ana was playing really good,” Swiatek said. “As she said in her post-match interview, I read it on Twitter, she…didn’t want to give me time on my forehand.
“I think that was pretty good tactics. She was playing really aggressively and kind of risky but the balls went in, so I assume that she’s in good shape right now.”
Konjuh, who is currently ranked No 338, is now in the fourth round in Miami and plays Sevastova next.
Reflecting on her past struggles, Konjuh said: “Thankfully all of that is behind me right now, but in those key moments where you’re sick of everything, and you’re just questioning yourself, like, should I go back and is it worth it and whatnot, I just remembered, you know, why I started playing this sport and why I love it so much and just the feeling that I had when I was in the top, and having these great results and what it meant to me.
“So, you know, I decided I’m not going to stop until I do everything there is, every possibility to help me. Here we are.
“To be playing at this level gives me confidence I still have work to do.”