MIAMI, FL, USA - It was the match everyone was waiting for, and it sure lived up to the hype. Serena Williams and Simona Halep, the two hottest players on the season so far, battled it out in an electric three-setter under the lights in the Miami Open semifinals, with Williams winning - just barely.
She came out on absolute fire - Williams was in vintage form in the first set, breaking for 3-1 with a massive crosscourt forehand, then breaking again for the set off a pinpoint forehand return winner. She finished the set with an almost 2:1 ratio of winners to unforced errors (13 to 7) and some inspired play on the big points (she won two of three break chances). Halep, meanwhile, never got a break point.
The second set was all about big moments - or moment, maybe. After eight straight holds en route to 4-all, Halep converted the only break point of the set off a Williams forehand error and proceeded to serve the set out, so in the zone she didn't even realize she won the set until the umpire told her.
Williams regrouped in a big way early in the third, storming out to a 3-0 lead, and when she built that lead to 5-2, it looked like she might run away with it. But the match wasn't over by any means, and brick by brick Halep built her comeback - holding, breaking then holding again to tie it up, 5-all.
But there was one last shift, and it went Williams' way. The No.1-seeded American held then broke at love to put the No.3-seeded Romanian away after two hours and eight minutes, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
"I actually had a fun match," Williams said. "I just feel it was on my racquet. I had chances in the second set but didn't take them. That's something I can't do going into the Grand Slams coming up."
And what about Halep? "Her game was great," Williams said. "She plays so well, and it's so good to see her play so well. She's so young, and I actually love watching her play. I'm actually a fan of hers.
"I really like her attitude on the court. I like how she gets pumped up. I like how she fights. I like how she plays. I just think it's fun to watch and it's different - it's definitely a refreshing type of game."
In turn, Halep was asked in her post-match press conference whether she's a fan of Williams.
"I've been one for a long time," Halep replied. "I've learned many things from her. When she won a Grand Slam I was like a kid, and I like watching her, how she's playing and fighting until the end.
"She's still No.1 and winning titles, so it's amazing. I respect her career and as a person."
With the victory over Halep, Williams extends her winning streak to 20 matches in a row, her last loss actually coming to Halep in the round robin stage of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global last year. And speaking of the WTA Finals, Williams will now move past Halep for the No.1 spot on the Road To Singapore leaderboard, the year-long journey to the WTA Finals.
? WTA (@WTA) April 3, 2015