Johanna Konta early yesterday morning became the first British woman to reach a Miami Open final when she outlasted US veteran Venus Williams 6-4, 7-5.
The clock had ticked past midnight and most of the crowd had long since departed before Konta finally put away 36-year-old Williams after more than two hours of attrition on the hard court at Crandon Park.
The 10th seed is to play Caroline Wozniacki in today’s final after the Danish 12th seed won an even longer semi-final against second seed Karolina Pliskova 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to kick off the day’s action.
“Thanks to everyone who stayed. Good morning by the way,” Konta said jokingly in a courtside interview at an almost empty stadium after the pair traded eight breaks of serve in a baseline slugfest.
“To be honest, it was so incredibly close, so many back-and-forths in every point of every game. I feel very fortunate I was able to take advantage of a couple more opportunities than maybe her. It really could have gone either way,” she added.
The final is to be Konta’s second of the season after the world No. 11 won the Apia International Sydney in January, with the Briton meeting Wozniacki for a second time following her third-round win over the Dane at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Konta predicted a marathon final against Wozniacki, who capitalized on her renowned endurance and made fewer unforced errors in wearing down Pliskova, despite frittering away three set points in the opener.
The result exacted a measure of revenge for Wozniacki, who was beaten by the big-serving Czech in the Doha final in February.
“Fitness is something I’m working really hard on every day. It’s a huge part of my game,” Wozniacki, who completed the 2014 New York Marathon in less than three-and-a-half hours, said in a courtside interview.
In men’s singles, Roger Federer on Thursday stared down defeat and saved two match points before eliminating Tomas Berdych with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6) victory in their thrilling quarter-final.
Federer was yesterday to face Nick Kyrgios after the 12th seeded Australian edged German teenager Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-7, (11/9), 6-3 in an evening quarter-final, finally clinching victory on his sixth match point.
Swiss magician Federer had to call upon all his resources of skill, poise and experience to edge the Czech in a third set tiebreak in front of a frenzied crowd at Crandon Park.
Berdych served for the match at 6-4 in the tiebreak, but Federer reeled off four points in a row, including two unplayable serves, and secured the victory when the Czech 10th seed crumbled with a terrible second serve.
Federer conceded that he has ridden his luck at times to advance.
“I’ve had some tough losses here where I should have won. They stay with you, so I’m happy today to have come through somehow,” he said courtside. “I definitely got very lucky at the end, but I think I showed great heart today and I fought. Tomas really stepped it up and it was a great match at the end but one guy had to win.”
Australian Open champion Federer, who also won at Indian Wells two weeks ago, is playing some of the best tennis of his career and appears completely recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of the second half of last year.
The 35-year-old is 17-1 this season, his only loss a surprise defeat to Russian Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Federer has won all seven of the tiebreaks he has faced during his current campaign in the US.
“I enjoy winning breakers, because those are the ones that are going to make you win a tournament or not sometimes,” he said.
In the tiebreak, Berdych hit a backhand winner into the corner to set up two match points, the first on serve, but netted a forehand to squander the first.
Federer saved the second match point with a superb first serve and set up his own with an ace down the middle.
The pressure reverted to Berdych and this time he cracked, his second serve landing closer to the baseline than the service line.
Kyrgios is looking forward to facing Federer after pulling out of their scheduled Indian Wells quarter-final due to illness.
“He’s my favorite player, so I’m going to enjoy the moment,” said the 21-year-old, who won their only career meeting, on clay in Madrid, in 2015. “He’s the greatest of all time. We don’t know how long he’s going to hang around so it’s a blessing.”
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