WTA Washington: Ekaterina Makarova progresses to first semifinal of 2017 after Halep retires

Earning her sixth Top 10 victory of the year, Ekaterina Makarova progressed to just her first semifinal of 2017 at the Citi Open after top seed Simona Halep retired in the third set due to a heat illness.

WTA Washington: Ekaterina Makarova progresses to first semifinal of 2017 after Halep retires
Ekaterina Makarova progresses to her first semifinal of the year, where she would face Oceane Dodin | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe
Simona Halep (retired)
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Ekaterina Makarova

There was a bittersweet ending to the quarterfinal match between top seed and world number two Simona Halep and former Top 10 player Ekaterina Makarova at the Citi Open as the French Open finalist was forced to retire from the match due to the soaring temperatures, with the Russian progressing to her first semifinal of the year and also securing her sixth Top 10 victory along the way.

Halep makes flying start to the match

Makarova started the match serving and it looked to be a good decision when she earned two game points within a blink of an eye, with Halep still struggling to get off the mark. However, the Russian started to rattle off a couple of unforced errors, allowing her higher-ranked opponent to get the early break of service. The Romanian then overcame some early jitters to consolidate the break, opening up an early 2-0 lead.

Unforced errors continued to plague Makarova as she was very inconsistent in her baseline game, allowing Halep to take advantage and earn her second consecutive break, looking to stroll through the first set. Coming from 15-30 down, the world number two suffered a slight scare before extending her lead to an incredible four games, with Makarova unable to find her range.

Simona Halep in action at the Wimbledon Championships, where she reached the quarterfinals | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
Simona Halep in action at the Wimbledon Championships, where she reached the quarterfinals | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe

Fortunately for the Russian, she finally got herself onto the scoreboard after surviving a tough game in which she saved a break point to prevent Halep from having the golden opportunity to serve for the bagel. An improbable comeback looked to be on the cards when Makarova got one of the breaks back in the next game as a double fault by the Romanian allowed her to lessen the deficit.

However, the joy was short-lived as Halep immediately regained a double-break lead, earning the opportunity to serve out the set. The Romanian finally managed to claim the first set after coming from 15-30 down to successfully hold her serve, being halfway to reaching her fifth semifinal of the year.

Simona Halep was a win away from being the top-ranked woman thrice this year | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
Simona Halep was a win away from being the top-ranked woman thrice this year | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe

Makarova recovers from early deficit to send the match into a deciding set

After an exchange of service holds to start the second set, it was Halep who made the first breakthrough as some inconsistent play by Makarova saw her go down by a set and a break, with the Romanian looking to clinch the win in a hurry. Unexpectedly, there was a sudden turning point in the match as Halep lost the plot immediately, looking rusty on her forehand as she allowed the Russian to return level after a loose service game. Makarova seemed to have found her range as she held her serve comfortably before taking the lead for the first time in the match as she broke serve for the second consecutive time.

With the help of several strong serves, Makarova was playing some impressive tennis after winning her fourth straight game to consolidate the break and place herself just one game away from sending the match into a deciding set. Despite visibly struggling with the high temperature, Halep remained mentally strong and continued giving her best despite trailing in the set, and some inspired play from the world number two managed to help her save three set points and prevail in the longest game of the match which featured five deuces. All her efforts were proved to be in vain when Makarova survived a tricky service game to successfully serve out the second set, sending the match into a deciding set.  

Ekaterina Makarova in action at the Wimbledon Championships last month | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Ekaterina Makarova in action at the Wimbledon Championships last month | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Halep forced to throw in the towel

Despite some tough efforts by Halep, Makarova still managed to break serve in the opening game of the final set as she dictated play, moving the Romanian all around the court. However, the heat was too unbearable as the temperatures soared up, forcing Halep to call for a medical time-out after the first game. After a short while, the top seed made the decision to retire from the match, with “heat illness” being stated as the official reason.


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