By Tucker Verdi
Take the rankings, take the previous titles, take the prize money, and just throw it all out.
In tennis, none of it matters once the players are on court. All the prestige of a superstar and all the doubts of an unknown challenger go by the wayside, and the two just play tennis. In this sport, anything can happen. And on Thursday at the 2018 Miami Open, it did.
The first day of the second round of women’s singles play was highlighted by the upsets of tournament mainstays by unknown challengers. 8 of the 16 seeded women on court Thursday are packing their bags and headed home.
It began with American Christina McHale taking down No. 25 seed Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-4 in a match that lasted almost two hours, a lengthy spectacle for only a two-setter.
US and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was handily beaten by Kazak player Zarina Diyas 6-1, 6-3 in a quick 60-minute match. Also going down was No. 12 seed German Julia Gorges, who fell to compatriot Carina Witthoeft 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-4, in a grueling two-and-a-half hour match. The last seeded player, No. 32 seed Sorana Cirstea, lost to Su-Wei Hsieh 7-5, 6-2.
No. 14 seed Madison Keys was forced to retire while trailing 0-2 in the second set of her match against former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. The former Grand Slam champ had taken the first set from Keys in a tiebreak, 7-6(5).
The most notable upsets, however, were by qualifiers who have kept defying the odds and are progressing into the third round.
Monica Niculescu of Romania defeated last year’s Wimbledon semifinalist No. 17 seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-3, and Yafan Wang spoiled No. 25 seed Carla Suarez Navarro’s tournament hopes 7-5, 6-3.
American qualifier Allison Riske pulled the biggest upset of the day, ending No. 7 seed Caroline Garcia’s tournament stay 6-3, 6-1, in just over an hour.
The day filled with upsets included some close calls as well for top-ranked players. World No. 1 Simona Halep gave up the first set 3-6 to Lucky Loser Oceane Dodin before exerting her dominance and winning the second and third 6-3 and 7-5, respectively. No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova fought off a tough challenge from Ekaterina Makarova, who she’d never beaten before in her career, in a 7-5, 7-5, match deserving of a third set.
Grand Slam champions Angeligue Kerber (No. 10) and Sloane Stephens (No. 13), however, each coasted to victory in their first matches of the tournament, 6-2, 6-2 and 6-1, 6-3, respectively.
For full match results, visit miamiopen.com/2018-results
About the Miami Open presented by Itaú
The 2018 Miami Open will be played March 19-April 1 at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Miami. The two-week combined event is owned and operated by IMG. The Miami Open is one of nine ATP Masters 1000 Series events on the ATP calendar, a Premier Mandatory event on the WTA calendar, and features the top men's and women's tennis players in the world. The tournament is widely regarded as the most glamorous on the ATP and WTA calendars because of its exotic Miami location, thriving nightlife, five-star hotels and restaurants, beautiful weather and beaches, and its celebrity appeal. For ticket information, call +1.305.442.3367 or visit www.miamiopen.com.
Itau is the largest Latin America privately owned bank, with approximately 94,000 employees and operations in 19 countries throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe. Itaú’s relationship with sport goes back to the 1970s, when Itaú first sponsored the Itaú Tennis Cup in Brazil in 1970. Itaú has been a sponsor of the Miami Open for the last six years, and also sponsors the Rio Open, the only combined ATP/WTA event in South America. Itaú also supports the Brazilian Women’s Tennis Circuit, only female professional tournament in South America, certified by the Brazilian Tennis Confederation (CBT) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF), as well as the Tennis Institute Training Center, responsible for the development of young, new talent.
IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media, operating in more than 30 countries. The company represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of sports media. IMG also specializes in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions.