DAY 3 RECAP: AZARENKA, ANISIMOVA ADVANCE WHILE PUIG FALLS
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — In a back-and-forth match between a pair of former top-5 players, two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka prevailed over 2016 WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the inaugural match played on the Miami Open’s new Stadium Court.
Immediately after the ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Stadium Court, the pair of 29-year-olds took to the court to add another chapter to their lengthy rivalry on tour. Having played each other 10 times since 2006, their first meeting since 2015 comes as both vie to return the top of the game.
The thrilling match, lasting just over two-and-a-half hours, was a rollercoaster as Azarenka — three times a Miami Open singles champion, stormed out of the gates to take the first set. Cibulkova — whose best result at the Miami Open is a semifinal appearance in 2014, would turn the tables and claim the second set. For the seventh time in their last eight meetings, Azarenka and Cibulkova would play a deciding set.
In the third, Azarenka dished out five aces and fended off six break points to keep herself in the match. Though the former World No. 1 was broken while serving for the match at 5-3, Cibulkova failed to consolidate the break and dropped her own serve, allowing Azarenka to move onto the second round. There, she will play 19th-seeded Caroline Garcia.
In other first round main draw action, young American Amanda Anisimova overpowered Andrea Petkovic in a just under 90 minutes, taking the match 6-4, 6-3. The youngest player ranked in the WTA Top 200, Anisimova will take on Anett Kontaveit (No. 21) in the second round, looking for her second Top 25 upset of the year following her ousting of Aryna Sabalenka in the opening round of the 2019 Australian Open.
On Grandstand, as the sun began to set, Miami Open crown favorite Monica Puig was taken down by wild card Wang Xiyu. Entering to a raucous cheer from the Puerto Rican faithful that have been supporting her passionately her entire career, the enthusiasm for Puig was not able to translate to her play.
The fiery 25-year-old got off to a sluggish start, being worked around the court by Wang and getting broken twice to go down 0-4. After letting slip several break points of her, however, Puig gave herself life by taking a game of Wang’s serve. However, her fight just delayed the inevitable as Wang took the held on to win the first set and, eventually, the match 6-3, 6-1.
Federico Delbonis was the first man to move into the round of 32 following his opening round matchup against Peter Gojowczyk, which he won 6-4, 6-2. He was followed not too long after Roberto Carballes Baena, who easily moved past American Denis Kudla 6-1, 6-2 in just over an hour.
2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, scheduled to take on Bernard Tomic in the last match of the afternoon on Stadium Court, was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to a back injury. Tomic will now play a Lucky Loser on Thursday for a chance to advance to play top seed Novak Djokovic.
For the second straight day, rain interrupted play at the Open, with four matches suspended during play and five matches that did not even get to begin. Reigning Indian Wells champ Bianca Andreescu, Taylor Fritz, Nicolas Jarry, and Alize Cornet are among the players who will have to resume or play the entirety of matches on Thursday.