MIAMI, FL, USA - World No. 38 Alizé Cornet ended the comeback campaign of wildcard Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the Miami Open as she moved through to the second round with a 7-5, 6-2 victory to begin Wednesday's action at Crandon Park.
After one hour and 38 minutes of action, the two players shared an embrace at the net and Cornet led the applause for the American, who was playing her first match since suffering a devestating knee injury at last year's Wimbledon Championships, as she walked off the court.
"I'm the most happy with the win, but secondly, is to see Bethanie back on court," Cornet said on-court after the match. "She's a great player, and I was very sad last year for what happened to her at Wimbledon.
"She's already back and she's playing damn good," the Frenchwoman added with a laugh. "I'm very happy to be through."
Although the 32-year-old American produced several highlight reel moments after nine months away from competitive action, the consistency of the Frenchwoman proved too much in the end, though Cornet needed two opportunities to serve out victory.
— WTA (@WTA) March 21, 2018
The match started inauspiciously for the American as she failed to hold serve in the opening game, but she bounced back immediately, with a combination of deft touch at the net and precision ground strokes which allowed her to level to love.
Although the third game escaped her, largely thanks to an unorthodox, agile volley from the Frenchwoman, it was clear the former WTA World No.30 was not only fit but competitive.
A marathon, five-deuce affair on Mattek-Sands' serve secured Cornet another break after four break points went by, and the Frenchwoman added some late insurance behind another lengthy, seventh game to build a one-set lead.
Both players saved a break point in their first service games of the second set, which stayed even until Cornet earned a break at love in the fifth game.
She remained in front for nearly the duration of the set, but Mattek-Sands produced some magic with her back against the wall, leveling the set at 5-5 in front of a partisan crowd.
However, her late push did not reap reward, as Cornet quickly restored order for herself with another love break, and dug out of a 0-30 hole to serve out the match.
Added Cornet: "It was an entertaining match for the crowd. I was happy to see her...I'm confident for her comeback and I'm happy to be in the second round. Just before the draw came out, I came to her and we talked about how she felt and everything that was going through her mind...and after the draw came out, I was happy to be her first opponent."
— WTA (@WTA) March 21, 2018
In other early action around the grounds on Wednesday, Carina Witthoeft, Zarina Diyas, Ekaterina Makarova and Monica Niculescu all moved safely through to the second round.
Witthoeft defeated compatriot Tatjana Maria in an all-German affair, 6-3, 6-4, while qualifier Niculescu had a similar path past Yulia Putintseva, 6-2, 6-4. Diyas took the long way around to a straight sets victory, as the Kazakh led Jennifer Brady by a set and 4-0, as well as 5-1 in the eventual tiebreak, but needed to save a set point before claiming a 7-5, 7-6(8) victory.
In a clash of former Top 10 players who had success in Miami in 2016, former quarterfinalist Makarova edged former semifinalist Bacsinszky 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.
— WTA (@WTA) March 22, 2018
As day turned to night on Stadium 1, Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig closed out the day's play with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Samantha Stosur.
Puig, playing in front of a large Puerto Rican contingent in Miami, was the crowd favorite over the course of a one hour, 24-minute victory as she scored her third win in seven career meetings over Stosur.
"It's so amazing to play here - I'm playing at home in front of my family and friends and all the Puerto Ricans that are out there, lo quiero mucho,'" Puig said on-court after the match, later addressing the crowd in Spanish. "Today was an exceptionally difficult day to play, so it's key to make those necessary adjustments...and just stay really focused."
The win for Puig sets up a second round clash against No.2 seed and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki.
"Caroline and I have had tough matches in the past. I've won some and she's won some," she added. "I'm just looking forward to playing another match in front of my home crowd and a tough one at that, so I'm really ready to go."