Tennis: Miami OpenMar 24, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Simona Halep of Romania reacts after winning a point against Polona Hercog of Slovenia (not pictured) in the third round of the Miami Open at Miami Open Tennis Complex. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
(Reuters) - Romanian second seed Simona Halep fought back from a set down to defeat Slovenian Polona Hercog in a challenging third round match at the Miami Open on Sunday.
Hercog, ranked 93rd in the world, pushed Halep all the way in the second set but the Romanian dominated the tiebreak to turn the match around and eventually triumphed 5-7 7-6(1) 6-2.
"It was not easy at all," Halep said. "I think the level was very, very high. She played unbelievable. If she keeps playing like this, she can be top 20 easy."
Halep faces three-time Miami Open champion Venus Williams in the fourth round after the American won 6-3 6-1 against Russian 14th seed Daria Kasatkina, who failed to hold serve once.
World number three Halep avoided becoming the third major player to exit the tournament in two days.
Japanese world number one Naomi Osaka was stunned by 27th seeded Taiwanese Hsieh Su-wei while Serena William was forced to withdraw with a knee injury earlier on Sunday.
Halep, facing a potentially match-ending tiebreak in the second set, battled back with five consecutive points to force a deciding set against the 28-year-old Slovenian.
After lucky loser Hercog pulled within 3-2 in the concluding set, Halep won the next three games and the match.
"I think in the end she got tired a little bit, then I was stepping a little bit forward to be more aggressive," Halep said.
"The first two sets were tough because she was serving very, very strong. Also both shots, forehand, backhand, slice actually, it was really tough to get some points.
"She didn't miss. So it was really difficult. It was a very, very high standard."
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus broke Kasatkina eight times, losing just one game after trailing 3-2 in the opener.
"I think in a lot of the matches we played before, she was just on top of her game, couldn't miss," the former world number one said. "I think today I was just able to control the points. Got a few more errors.
"I'm always at my best when I'm playing aggressive."
So efficient was Williams that the Russian did not save a single break point as she lost every service game.
"I didn't realise that until after the match looking at the stats," said the American, who was broken four times herself. "I've never had a match before like that in my life."
Two more seeds went out on Sunday as Latvian 11th seed Anastasija Sevastova lost 1-6 6-2 6-3 to Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, while 25th-seeded American Danielle Collins went down 7-5 6-1 to China's Wang Yafan.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; editing by Ken Ferris)