Romania’s Simona Halep moved closer to reclaiming the world No 1 ranking on Wednesday, advancing into the WTA and ATP Miami Open semi-finals by defeating China’s Wang Qiang 6-4, 7-5.
Following Tuesday’s exit of Petra Kvitova, Halep needs only to reach Saturday’s final at Hard Rock Stadium to knock Japan’s Naomi Osaka from atop the women’s rankings despite her second major title in this year’s Australian Open.
Halep will try to reach her first South Florida final and reclaim the top spot by defeating the winner of a later all-Czech contest between world number five Karolina Pliskova and Marketa Vondrousova.
A fantastic recovery from 1-5 down in the second set showed a mental toughness displayed by only the very best.
“I started well and played some smart tennis but in the second set, she started to raise her game,” Halep said. “My coach said I was rushing a bit so I managed to calm down. That was great advice.”
Halep converted seven of eight break points and hit 24 winners compared to 14 from Wang, whose first serve percentage dipped to 47%.
Wang was aiming for her own slice of history, knowing landing the title would have made her the first Chinese woman in the top 10 since Li Na retired at the end of 2014. She responded strongly in her first Miami quarter-final after falling behind.
The world number 18 was all over the Halep service game, which had showed signs of weakness early on, returning with real aggression to establish a 5-1 lead – a run that saw her win 12 points in a row.
Halep managed to regain composure and broke for 5-2 as Wang started to get nervous. The reigning French Open champion broke again and suddenly had the chance to draw level in the second set.
That chance looked lost as Wang stormed 0-40 up on the Romanian’s serve, but Halep superbly saved all three sets points before a brilliant running forehand winner down the line to equalize 5-5.
Another break gave her the platform to serve for the match, which was sealed when Wang hit long.