Opportunity Knocks, Davis Answers
Published March 22, 2013 12:00
MIAMI, FL, USA - Three days ago she lost a heartbreaker in the final round of qualifying, but now she is into the third round of the main draw - Lauren Davis caught a break at the Sony Open Tennis on Friday and grabbed it, though she kind of had to go to the ends of the Earth to take advantage of it.
Following her three-hour, 15-minute, 67(0) 64 64 loss to fellow American Mallory Burdette in the qualies, Davis was left hanging - she was the first in line for a lucky loser spot in the main draw, but Friday was the last day for seeds to play their first matches, so time was quickly running out.
But then she got the call - Victoria Azarenka had been forced to withdraw.
"I came here this morning with like no hope left that I was going to get in, but I just hoped and wished and prayed I would get in," Davis said. "I got a call at 10 o'clock saying I got in. I was just so happy. I didn't care if I won or lost, I was just so grateful for the opportunity to play in the tournament.
"I had never signed up to be a lucky loser. It's my first time."
What followed was one of the closest matches of the tournament so far. Another fellow American, another marathon: the tenacious Davis battled a very aggressive Madison Keys, originally leading 61 31 but losing the second set and finding herself down 3-1 in the third - but she got back on serve and eventually managed to fend off triple match point in the tie-break and prevail, 61 57 76(7).
"I had momentum at 61 31 but I started thinking a bit too much and let her in the door a little bit," Davis said. "I just relied on my fighting instincts to pull me through. I'm just really happy I won today.
"We kind of have opposite games. I'm a grinder and a good baseliner - she likes to keep the points shorter, big serve, big forehand. So my game plan was just to go out there and I guess exploit her backhand and hit down the line when she tries to run around the forehand, and keep balls in play."
And on the three match points? "I was pretty tired in the third set; I'm sure she was, too. But she played really, really well, really aggressive. She kind of took me out of my comfort zone. I just relied on my fighting instincts - when I was down 6-3 I had a feeling that I could win it, so I asked God for strength and I ended up winning. It was so stressful but in a good way. It was really, really nerve-wracking and I'm sure my family and friends were about to have a heart attack watching me as well."
As for Azarenka, who won this title in 2009 and 2011, her right ankle injury was just too much.
"I wanted to give my 100% possibility to play, and today was my last test," Azarenka said. "The last two days I tried to practice on it and it didn't get better. I thought I was sure before but wanted to be 100% sure I couldn't participate, because I was really looking forward to playing in this tournament.
"I'm really, really sad I don't have an opportunity to play here. I love playing here. I won two times, and I had great results here all the time. I have very good memories. I think the tournament is incredible. The whole field is here. Of course I'm very disappointed for the fans, as well. But I have to take my health into consideration. I tried everything I could but couldn't make it. It's an unfortunate part of our job."
Elsewhere the seeds were getting it done, with No.6 seed Angelique Kerber, No.11 seed Nadia Petrova, No.15 seed Roberta Vinci, No.20 seed Carla Suárez Navarro, No.21 seed Klara Zakopalova, No.28 seed Sorana Cirstea and No.29 seed Elena Vesnina all among the early winners. Suárez Navarro probably had the longest day of them all, rallying from a set and 4-1 down to beat Jamie Hampton, 57 75 76(3); Cirstea rallied from 62 20 down to beat Sílvia Soler-Espinosa, 26 75 62.