Sun returns to Miami as Swiatek chases 'Sunshine Double', Sabalenka dumped out


Sun returns to Miami as Swiatek chases 'Sunshine Double', Sabalenka dumped out

Swiatek has not lost an opening match since 2021 in Cincinnati
Swiatek has not lost an opening match since 2021 in CincinnatiAFP
After two days of rain, the sun returned to the Miami Open on Saturday in a good omen for Iga Swiatek (22), who launched her bid to become just the second woman to win the "Sunshine Double" more than once with a breezy 6-1, 6-1 win over Italy's Camila Giorgi (32).

In stark contrast to Swiatek's joy, Belarusian world number two Aryna Sabalenka exited in a fit of rage, smashing her racquet and walking off court without offering a handshake after a 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 loss to Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina.

Ukrainian players have been refusing to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Back on court for the second time in as many days following the apparent suicide of former boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov, Sabalenka appeared to have little left in the tank physically, mentally and emotionally after a long difficult week.

After her return wide gave Kalinina the match the Australian Open champion vented her frustration by smashing her racquet to pieces and exiting the court.

With the win Kalinina moves into the round of 16, where she will face Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva.

Winner of the "Sunshine Double" (wins at Indian Wells and Miami Open) in 2022, Swiatek can join Steffi Graf as the only other woman to pull off the feat more than once if she can lift the trophy in Miami after taking the first leg in the California desert last weekend.

The world number one opened her Miami account in ruthless style, romping to victory in just 69 minutes.

"Today, for sure, was a pretty positive day," said Swiatek.

"I just believe that I have abilities to play on any surface, especially here where it's a little bit slower usually.

"I already know that I could do it (win) two years ago, so this experience has taught me that there's no need to worry or panic, you just have to really use every minute on court to be focused and get the right feeling."

Swiatek has not lost an opening match since 2021 in Cincinnati and the Pole was in no danger of having that run end on the Hard Rock stadium court, racing out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set and never stepping off the gas.

Next for Swiatek is 26th-seeded Czech teenager Linda Noskova, who could prove a tricky test having stunned the Pole in the third round of this year's Australian Open.

'Best match'

In the battle of players returning to the tour from maternity leave it was former world number one Naomi Osaka coming away with a 6-2, 7-6(5) win over 15th-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.

It is another big step in the 26-year-old Japanese player's comeback having now picked off two top 20 ranked players in the six matches since her return.

"I definitely do think it was one of my best matches, if not the best match," said the four-time Grand Slam winner. "But I also want myself to play better and better every match.

"I feel like for me going into the match, I knew that she's a great player, and I had no choice but to play really well if I wanted a chance to win."

American fifth seed Jessica Pegula moved untroubled into the third round when an ailing Zhu Lin retired trailing 6-4, 4-1.

After only eight matches were completed on Friday due to rain, the start of play was again delayed by three hours on Saturday with Pegula and Zhu among the first in action as organisers scrambled to get back on schedule.

Zhu, looking for her first win over a top five ranked opponent, began smartly, matching Pegula with an early break.

But the 30-year-old Chinese was unable to sustain the effort as Pegula broke again to take the opener before charging out to a 3-0 lead in the second.

Zhu would hold serve at 3-1 but after Pegula served to increase her lead headed to the bench during the changeover showing signs of distress and asked for the trainer.

A medical time out was called with a doctor coming on court checking Zhu's blood pressure and heart rate as the Chinese player closed her eyes and pointed to her chest.

Following a brief discussion with the chair umpire the match was called with Pegula coming across to check on her opponent.

Next up for Pegula is Canadian Leylah Fernandez, who converted all six of her break chances in a 6-4, 6-2 win over Colombian Emiliana Arango.

Romania's Sorana Cirstea brought former champion Sloane Stephens' Miami Open to a screeching halt mauling the American grand slam winner 6-2, 6-1.


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