Inspired Kuznetsova Surprises Halep
Published April 24, 2014 12:14
Halep came into the match as a clear favorite. Not only has she been the breakthrough star of the WTA over the last 12 months, but she dropped just two games in the pair's last meeting on the clay courts of Rome last May. Meanwhile, Kuznetsova hadn't won back-to-back matches all year coming in.
But there was one thing that could have been on Halep's mind - though she did play Fed Cup over the weekend, this was her first WTA tournament since Indian Wells, which was more than five weeks ago.
The Turning Point
Halep came out of the blocks strong, building a 5-2 lead, but she suddenly lost all momentum, and her opponent went on maximum overdrive - Kuznetsova reeled off five straight games, and 20 of the 22 points in them, to sneak the first set right out from under the World No.5 in exactly 40 minutes, 7-5.
Halep again had her chances in the second set. After the pair traded breaks early on, Kuznetsova fell behind 0-40 in her 4-5 service game - triple set point for Halep. But just like she did in the opening frame, Kuznetsova found that extra gear right when she needed it, reeling off the next five points in a row to hold for 5-all. They eventually went to a tie-break, where the Russian sealed the deal.
By The Numbers
Though Halep broke almost as many times as Kuznetsova, two compared to three, Kuznetsova eased the pressure on herself by a lot with some very strong first serve numbers. Not only did she maintain a 67% first serve percentage, but she won a whopping 78% of those points - on the other side of the net, Halep had a very solid 61% first serve percentage but won just 62% of those first serve points.
At the end of the day, Kuznetsova - a former World No.2 - scored her first win over a Top 5 player since beating then-World No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska in the early rounds of the French Open two years ago.
Awaiting Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals is No.9 seed and fellow former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, who beat German wildcard Julia Goerges earlier in the day, 16 62 63 (read more here). Ivanovic leads Kuznetsova in their head-to-head series, 8-3, and is also 3-1 on clay against her.
The other four winners on Thursday were No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Roberta Vinci, 63 62 (read more here), No.5 seed Jelena Jankovic, who outdid Flavia Pennetta, 36 62 63 (read more here), No.6 seed Maria Sharapova, who beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 64 63 (read more here) and Carla Suárez Navarro, who took out No.4 seed Angelique Kerber, 75 64 (read more here).