In a galaxy of professional tennis players, Karolina Pliskova and Jessica Pegula, incredibly, will collide Sunday for the third time … this month.
When Pliskova defeated Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-1 and Pegula beat wildcard Storm Sanders 6-3, 6-4, they locked down a third-round meeting at the Miami Open.
The No. 6-seeded Pliskova is 0-2 against Pegula – and it hasn’t been close. On March 4, the American took a Doha quarterfinal 6-3, 6-1. On March 10, it was a breezy 6-0, 6-2 result in the Dubai round of 16. Do the math: That’s six games in four sets for Pliskova.
After reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the semifinals in Doha, No. 29 seed Pegula is 13-5, and her 18 matches played rank fourth among WTA players.
Sunday in Miami will be a terrific day of tennis, with a 22-match winning streak on the line, along with four Grand Slam champions and a precocious teenager in action.
Five of the eight matches are first-time encounters.
No. 2 Naomi Osaka vs. Nina Stojanovic
Osaka is author of the aforementioned 22 consecutive victories. She had some nervous moments against Ajla Tomljanovic but found an equilibrium and prevailed 7-6(3), 6-4.
She’s a runaway first in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, but there is this caveat lurking: In four previous appearances, Osaka has never been past the third round at the Miami Open.
“I feel like all of my results, there is always a story behind them,” Osaka said in her last post-match press conference. “One year when I played here it was after I won Indian Wells and I was really like mentally fatigued. The next year I wasn’t doing so well on the hard courts, so it was like back-to-back losses.
“I don’t really think it’s too much you can read into them. But I always feel like there is always a reason why I haven’t done well here, and hopefully I’m able to do well this time.”
Stojanovic, a qualifier ranked No. 95, saved two match points to upset No. 26 seed Yulia Putintseva 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 in the second round.
These two have yet to meet.
No. 8 Bianca Andreescu vs. No. 28 Amanda Anisimova
On Monday, the day before the tournament began, Anisimova was concluding a phone interview.
Asked about the possibility of playing Andreescu in the third round, she volunteered, “I practiced with her today. I would be excited to play Bianca. I’ve never played her before.”
There’s a first time for everything, and this is it for the 19-year-old American. She sprinted past Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-3, despite suffering briefly a bit from the heat and humidity.
Andreescu, who missed the entire 2020 season with a knee injury, has played only seven matches this year. She looked a little rusty against qualifier Tereza Martincova but survived two set points and advanced 7-6 (5), 6-2. It was her first match since the Australia swing.
“It’s my third tournament back,” Andreescu said, “So it’s a little bit different, but once I continue to play matches I know I’m going to get back into the groove of just being back on tour. But I’m feeling really good. I’m super proud of myself with how I handled everything.”
Andreescu said she wasn’t aware her next opponent would be Anisimova.
“She hits very flat,” Andreescu said, “I have to be ready for everything. She has a very good serve, but I’m feeling good out there and I think it’s going to be a very good match.”
No. 12 Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Anna Kalinskaya
She’s ranked No. 13, but Muguruza is second in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen with a terrific 19-4 record for 2021. Those 23 matches are the most on tour and her 19 wins are second to none.
Muguruza defeated Wang Xinyu 6-4, 6-1.
She said she was nervous beforehand because Miami is a tournament in which she loves to play.
“Playing well in the Middle East swing, I just wanted to keep the same energy and the same quality of tennis,” Muguruza said. “It was actually very windy, so that makes it very tricky. Playing a little bit an unknown player, you know, you never know, as well.”
Kalinskaya, ranked No. 115, upset No. 20 seed Petra Martic 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
This will be their first meeting.
No. 4 Sofia Kenin vs. No. 27 Ons Jabeur
Kenin wore down Andrea Petkovic 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-3 in her first match back after an emergency appendectomy.
After going 3-3 in Australia, the defending Australian Open champion wound up in a Melbourne hospital in mid-February.
“It obviously felt a bit different,” Kenin said. “I just felt a bit out of it with the warm-up, and once we started playing, you know, I looked, and I was, like, `Are you going to say `Play’?
“Yeah, I obviously felt a bit more nervous at the beginning, first match after having the surgery and everything. I just told myself, `Keep fighting.’”
Jabeur fought off illness in her three-set win over Paula Badosa, overcoming a third-set service break.
Kenin holds a forceful 5-1 edge in head-to-head, including straight sets at last year’s US Open and French Open.
No. 21 Elena Rybakina vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo
Sorribes Tormo upset No. 13 seed Jennifer Brady 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a battle of two of the tour’s most in-form players. Brady was an Australian Open finalist.
“I can’t believe it,” Sorribes Tormo said, smiling, “so I’m just super happy. I think today was one of the best matches I played. I’m 100 percent sure. I don’t want to say it’s the best match I played, but I’m sure it’s one of the best.”
The 24-year-old Spaniard is coming off two spectacular weeks in Mexico, winning her first title in Guadalajara (over Eugenie Bouchard in the final) and reaching the semifinals in Monterrey. She’s 13-4 for 2021 – and the last to beat Naomi Osaka back in February 2020. She’s also the only player to save match points and win – twice.
Rybakina prevailed over Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-0.
These two have never played.
No. 23 Maria Sakkari vs. Liudmila Samsonova
Samsonova, a 22-year-old Russian upset No. 10 Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-1 – the highest seed to exit the tournament so far. Samsonova, a qualifier ranked No. 126, is a tidy 8-4 for 2021.
Sakkari upended Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-3.
This is another first-time meeting.
No. 16 Elise Mertens vs No. 22 Anett Kontaveit
Mertens defeated Katie Boulter 6-4, 6-1, while Kontaveit handled Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Mertens has a 2-1 head-to-head advantage, having won most recently at Sydney in 2019.