World No. 1 Serena Williams and the player who handed her one of the worst losses of her career last year, Simona Halep, will renew their rivalry in the semifinals of the Miami Open after posting not-so-easy victories on Wednesday.
Williams recovered from a 6-1 thrashing in the second set to rebound and defeat Sabine Lisicki, topping the No. 27-seeded German 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-3.
“Today wasn’t my best day,” said Williams, who broke early for a 3-0 lead in the final set. “I wasn’t serving the way I normally serve or hitting the way I normally hit, so all I could do was just fight and try to give 200% instead of 100%…She had a lot of momentum going into the third set after winning the second set, so I just wanted to stay strong, and basically hold my serve.”
It was the 700th tour match win for Williams, putting her in the company of Martina Navratilova (1,442 wins), Chris Evert (1,309), Steffi Graf (902), Virginia Wade (839), Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (759), Lindsay Davenport (753) and Conchita Martinez (739).
“I saw them bringing out a cake and I thought, ‘Whose birthday is it today?'” said Williams of tournament officials who honored her with a “700” cake.
Williams hasn’t lost a match since getting drubbed by Halep in round robin play at the 2014 year-end championships, since then winning 19 matches in a row.
Halep after an easy first set seemed to mentally take her foot off the pedal against Sloane Stephens, eventually defeating the American 6-1, 7-5.
“The beginning of the match was really fast. I think I was really playing my best tennis,” said Halep, who went up 6-1, 3-0 before the wheels came off. “She came back and changed the tactics, playing a little bit slower, and I lost my rhythm for a little bit.”
Williams leads Halep in their head-to-head series 4-1, with the loss a 6-0, 6-2 defeat at the WTA Championships. The two were to face in the semifinals two weeks back at Indian Wells before Serena withdrew citing a knee injury.
“I’ll remember beating her all my life because it was such a good match for me,” Halep said. “I have to believe I can win again against her — I just have to go out there and believe I have a chance. I have nothing to lose tomorrow. She’s the best player in the world.”
On the men’s side Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych advanced to a semifinal meeting with wins on Wednesday.
The No. 3-seeded Murray came from a set down to defeat unseeded Dominic Thiem of Austria 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, while the No. 8-seeded Berdych overpowered unseeded Argentine Juan Monaco 6-3, 6-4.
“I expected a tough match,” said Murray, now one match away from a fourth Miami final. “He’s beaten some very good players this week already…When you let him dictate the points, he hits the ball as hard off each side as anyone…I think in the third set the difference was really my returning.”
Thiem gained confidence from the match and possibly raised his future expectations.
“Before this week I would have given a lot for the quarterfinals, but now, of course, I’m a little bit disappointed, especially [because] I won the first set,” Thiem said. “I played a good match. I will leave Miami feeling positive and with a good feeling for the clay court season.”
Berdych leads his career series with Murray 6-5, with the Scot winning their most recent meeting at the Australian Open this past January.
The Czech will attempt to reach his second Miami Open final, in 2010 losing to Andy Roddick in the championship match.
Thursday Miami Open Schedule:
Stadium Start 1:00 pm
 Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) vs.  Andrea Petkovic (GER)
Not Before 3:00 pm
 Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs.  John Isner (USA)
 Marcelo Melo (BRA)/Bruno Soares (BRA) vs.  Vasek Pospisil (CAN)/Jack Sock (USA)
Court 1 Start 6:00 pm
 Bob Bryan (USA)/Mike Bryan (USA) vs. John Isner (USA)/Sam Querrey (USA)
Stadium 7:00 pm
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs.  David Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 9:00 pm
 Serena Williams (USA) vs.  Simona Halep (ROU)
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