While the meeting between No.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and the high-flying Eugenie Bouchard dominated the headlines when the draw was announced, at the USTA training center in Boca Raton, Florida, eyes were firmly fixed on another bottom half match-up.
Alongside Madison Keys, McHale and Davis are the star pupils within the USTA setup in Boca, where they were regular sparring partners during the off-season. Both have enjoyed promising starts to 2014, with McHale reaching her maiden WTA final, in Acapulco, and Davis posting several solid showings, including a fourth round run at Indian Wells.
The Turning Point
There was little to separate the two early on, with McHale cancelling out an early break for Davis to send the opening set into a tie-break. If the set was tight, though, the tie-break was anything but, McHale, playing with the greater aggression and using every opportunity to get her forehand into play, dominating from first point to last.
She continued this attacking intent in the second and was rewarded with a couple of early breaks. Davis dug in to pull one back, but could not stem the tide, McHale eventually wrapping up the match, 7-6(2), 6-3.
"It was kind of funny when I saw the draw. Of all the people to play, I got Lauren, who I practice with all the time," McHale said. "You never want to play a friend, but at the same time, I had to stay focused and not spend too much time thinking about who I was playing, just what I needed to do.
"It kind of worked both ways. Since we play each other so much, she knows my game so well and I know her game so well, so there's really no surprises and we both kind of knew what the other was going to do."