By Tucker Verdi

Miami Gardens, FL — At 23, Anett Kontaveit is headed to the semifinals of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú. Overcoming the oft-puzzling style of her opponent — No. 27 seed Hsieh Su-wei — and a 0-4 deficit in the deciding set, Kontaveit overpowered the crafty player opposite her to win, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, in just over two hours and reach her first Miami Open semis.

“Of course I’m really happy,” Kontaveit told the press afterwards. “My first semifinal… I feel like my game is heading in the right direction. Today probably wasn’t, you know, the best match that I have ever played, but I’m so happy to be through that. I feel like I fought really well and I never gave up. I’m really, really happy with the improvements I’m making and being more positive with myself, whatever the score is.”

Hsieh did a remarkable job absorbing the power of Kontaveit early on, racing out to a 3-0 lead in the opening set, ostensibly helped by an untenable 18 unforced errors from the Estonian. Redirecting her opponent’s would-be winners from line to line, Hsieh kept the ball in play just long enough for Kontaveit to make a mistake.

However, in the second, Kontaveit’s power got to be too much for the 33-year-old, as her winner count ticked up and her error count ticked down. The raw strength of Kontaveit was on full display with her forehand winners, eliciting the awe of the crowd inside Stadium Court. At 2-all, she would win four straight games to take the second set easily.

Asked the difference between the first and second for her, Kontaveit responded, “I think I found my game a bit more in the second set. I was more aggressive, making more balls, making her, you know, play more balls and getting the first strike in better than I did in the first set.”

The decider matched up the two players at their highest level, with Hsieh shifting gears and playing first-strike tennis like Kontaveit — the advantage of having an expansive repertoire. The former doubles World No. 1 built a commanding 4-0, but Kontaveit wasn’t going away. The finalist in Wuhan last year dug deep to claim six of the next seven games. And, with Hsieh a point away from forcing a tiebreak at 40-0, Kontaveit added to her win total with two clean smashes that gave her the set and the match.

“I was just trying to take it point by point,” Kontaveit said about her mindset after falling down 0-4. “I was so close to being out of there so many times. I just tried to keep fighting and tried to stay in there and try and still be aggressive somehow. I was trying to think more about what I have to do than about the score.”

In the end, Kontaveit tallied up 44 winners but was broken six times over the course of the three-setter. The reason that didn’t spell the end for her — she broke Hsieh eight times.

Kontaveit will play either No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova or No. 12 Ashleigh Barty in her maiden Premier Mandatory semifinal.