Miami Open Daily Preview: Pegula/Collins, Rybakina/Badosa Square Off on Saturday - UBITENNIS
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Miami Open Daily Preview: Pegula/Collins, Rybakina/Badosa Square Off on Saturday

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Jessica Pegula with Tournament Director James Blake (twitter.com/MiamiOpen)

WTA third round action begins on Saturday in Miami, the first day where seeds begin to meet in the draws.

American No.1 Jessica Pegula faces fellow American and 2022 Australian Open finalist, Danielle Collins, while a pair of recent Indian Wells champs will collide, in Elena Rybakina and Paula Badosa.  Other WTA matches on Saturday feature three-time Miami Open champion Victoria Azarenka and Florida resident Coco Gauff.

ATP second round competition concludes on Saturday, with names like Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Matteo Berrettini making their 2023 Miami Open debuts.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Danielle Collins (30) – Third on Stadium Court

Pegula is 16-5 this season, and easily dispatched of qualifier Katherine Sebov on Thursday.  She is 7-3 lifetime in Miami, and was a semifinalist a year ago, losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.

Collins is 9-8 this season, and has not been able to rediscover her top form while battling multiple injuries over the course of the past year.  But she’s been very successful in Miami, with an overall record of 11-4 thanks to a semifinal run in 2018, and a quarterfinal run in 2022.

Pegula claimed their only tour-level meeting, which was an extremely tight affair.  Two years ago in Montreal, Jess prevailed 7-5 in the third on her sixth match point, which ended Danielle’s 12-match win streak at the time.  Pegula is again a favorite to prevail on Saturday, as she’s become one of the WTA’s most consistent performers, and rarely fails to make the second week of big events.  However, Collins always has the power to dictate matters if her aggressive game is clicking.


Elena Rybakina (10) vs. Paula Badosa (21) – Not Before 8:30pm on Stadium Court

Rybakina is 17-4 in 2023, and is coming off a three-set victory on Thursday night over Anna Kalinskaya.  She sits at a career-high of No.7 in the world, though it’s worth noting she’d be in the top five if she had received ranking points for her Wimbledon triumph.  Elena has lost in the third round of Miami in both of her previous appearances.

Badosa is just 6-3 on the year, having pulled out of the Australian Open due to injury.  She defeated Laura Siegemund in three sets in the last round.  Paula’s 7-5 lifetime in Miami, and was a quarterfinalist here a year ago.

Badosa leads their head-to-head 3-2 at tour level, though in this same round of Indian Wells two weeks ago, Rybakina beat Badosa in straight sets.  Elena may be due for a drop in form, coming off the second biggest title run of her career.  But based on her recent level of play, Rybakina must still be considered the favorite on Saturday.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Richard Gasquet vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (2) – Tsitsipas is 11-3 this year, but lost his opening round match at Indian Wells to Jordan Thompson in a final-set tiebreak.  Gasquet is 9-7, and began the year by winning a title in Auckland.  These two one-handed backhanders have split two previous meetings, which both occurred in 2018.

Magda Linette (20) vs. Victoria Azarenka (14) – This is a battle between 2023 Australian Open semifinalists.  Azarenka is 2-0 against Linette, which includes a comfortable victory seven years ago at this event.

Anastasia Potapova (27) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Gauff is now 15-4 on the year, while Potapova is 13-7, having won a hard court title last month in Linz.  Coco leads their head-to-head 2-0.

Mackenzie McDonald vs. Matteo Berrettini (19) – McDonald is now 8-0 in first round matches this season, but just 5-7 in rounds thereafter.  Berrettini has suffered some tough losses in 2023, and is a modest 7-6 at all levels, having played a Challenger event in Phoenix last week following his early exit at Indian Wells.  Matteo is 2-0 against Mackie, with both matches taking place on hard courts.

Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (LL) – Hurkacz won this tournament two years ago, and advanced to the semifinals in 2022.  Kokkinakis is a lucky loser who saved three match points in his opening round against Zizou Bergs, prevailing in a final-set tiebreak.  Five years ago in qualifying for Atlanta, Thanasi beat Hubi in straight sets.

Roberto Carballes Baena vs. Daniil Medvedev (4) – This is Medvedev’s first match since his 19-match winning streak was ended by Carlos Alcaraz in the final of Indian Wells.  He beat Carballes Baena in straight sets two years ago at the Australian Open.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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Matteo Berrettini Looks To Draw Inspiration From Jannik Sinner

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner ahead of his comeback to the ATP tour.

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(@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner as Berrettini is continuing his recovery from his injury.

The former Wimbledon finalist has had a horrible run of injuries which has seen the Italian fall down the rankings as he is now at 124 in the world.

After suffering a horrible injury at the US Open during his match with Arthur Rinderknech, Berrettini was looking to make his return at the Australian Open as he was set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round.

However just before the match, Berrettini withdrew as he decided to delay his comeback to the tour as he will aim to return to the court as soon as possible.

If Berrettini needed any inspiration then Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open could be that much needed spark as the Italian beat Novak Djokovic on his way to capturing a first Grand Slam title.

Speaking an interview Berrettini explained that he is still not 100% and admits he is looking to draw inspiration from Sinner’s form, “I’m better, but I’m not yet 100%,” Berrettini was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

“The goal is to play the whole season, and without these setbacks which are destroying my body and my head. Sinner did a miracle. I will also use this energy for my tennis. I was happy with what Jannik said.

“We have a good relationship, which has strengthened in recent months. We are different but similar. We are pursuing the same dream.”

Berrettini will hope Sinner’s success will have a positive influence on his recovery and quicken his return to the tour as the former world number six aims for a successful return to the tour.

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