Tiafoe, Stephens Survive Three-Setters to Triumph


image: Frances Tiafoe at play

By Daniel Perissé

Americans Frances Tiafoe and Sloane Stephens needed three sets to win their first-round matches at the inaugural night session of the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itaú.

Plantation’s Stephens opened the evening slate at Hard Rock Stadium’s Grandstand defeating French qualifier Oceane Dodin 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-2 in about two and a half hours. This was her first victory of the season and the fifth since the start of 2020. She advances to set an all-American clash with Amanda Anisimova, seeded No. 28 in the draw.

In the second match, Tiafoe came back after losing the first set to Italian Stefano Travaglia to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. He broke the European’s service in the fifth and seventh games of the final set to clinch the result. His next opponent will be British Daniel Evans, No. 19 seed.

On the other hand, things didn’t go well for other Americans in the Men’s Singles draw. Sam Querrey was beaten by veteran Yen-Hsun Lu 6-3, 6-4. The San Francisco native was so frustrated on court that he even broke one of his rackets during a changeover. Lu now faces top seed Daniil Medvedev in the second round.

Another U.S. player out of the draw is Steve Johnson. He lost 7-5, 6-2 to Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann, who booked a meeting against Russian Karen Khachanov, seeded at no. 14.

Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, the oldest player in the draw, was beaten by Australian Alexei Popyrin, who won the title in Singapore this year. The 21-year-old player now challenges American Reilly Opelka.

The first American to advance to the second round in the women’s draw was Danielle Collins, who defeated France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-3 in the opening match of the day on Grandstand. The St. Petersburg, FL, native needed over an hour to clinch the result. She now faces No. 32 seed Veronika Kumerdetova, from Russia.

German Andrea Petkovic also won her first match at Hard Rock Stadium. She defeated Chinese Shuai Zhang 7-5, 6-1 and will take on Pembroke Pines local and 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin, No. 4 seed.

Veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the Miami Open title in 2006 and was a finalist in 2016, lost to France’s Alize Cornet 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. Cornet now plays No. 9 seed Petra Kvitova.

2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko needed over two hours to defeat Chinese wild card Xiyu Wang 6-4,6-7(4), 6-1. Her next opponent will be Belgium’s Kristen Flipkens, who advanced straight to the second round as a lucky loser due to the withdrawal of American Alison Riske, with a left foot injury.