2018 champion Sloane Stephens of the United States was the first night session winner of the 2022 Miami Open, as the former World No.3 defeated Panna Udvardy of Hungary 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 39 minutes.
Former US Open champion Stephens fought back from an early break down in each set before earning victory, as she kicked off her 10th Miami appearance on Stadium Court.
"She’s a great competitor, obviously," Stephens said, after her win. "It was a tough match, but I was happy to fight through and stick to my game plan and be able to execute.
"It’s always a special tournament for me, I’ve always played well here, I love playing here, coming back here. So it’s nice to get a win, especially in front of friends and family, and hopefully I get some more soon."
Surging Sloane: Stephens, one of the highest-ranked unseeded players in the draw at World No.38, defeated three Top 10 players to claim the Miami crown four years ago.
Stephens had gone titleless since then until she at last claimed her seventh career Hologic WTA Tour singles title last month in Guadalajara.
Stephens was able to ease past World No.83 Udvardy, who had been ranked No.360 a year ago and was seeking both her first tour-level hard-court victory and her first win over a Top 50 player.
.@SloaneStephens fights through her First Round, taking the match 6-4, 6-3. @MiamiOpen | #MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/PFKHc70T0C— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) March 24, 2022
Match moments: Udvardy used superb backhand winners to earn the first break of the match and lead 4-2 in the opener. However, Stephens battled through two tough games after that — she converted her fourth break point of the next game to break back for 4-3, and saved two break points before holding for 4-4.
Udvardy slammed a volley long in the next game to cede another break to Stephens, and the American won a fourth straight game, with an ace on set point, to serve out the set at love.
A similar story occurred in the second set as Udvardy posted a 3-0 lead, but Stephens willed her way to six straight games, taking the victory. Udvardy finished with 19 winners to Stephens's 14, but Stephens broke Udvardy five times while saving five of the seven break points she faced.
Next up: An all-American tussle awaits Stephens in the second round, where she will face No.16 seed Jessica Pegula. Pegula won their only previous meeting in straight sets, at Indian Wells last year.
It’s been a while..🙃❤️ https://t.co/twgjzK7Gq4— Karolina Muchova (@karomuchova7) March 24, 2022
Returning Muchova wins all-Czech clash
In other first-round matches on Wednesday, former Top 20 player Karolina Muchova won her first match of the season when she defeated fellow Czech Tereza Martincova 7-6(3), 7-6(3) in two-and-a-half hours.
Former Australian Open semifinalist Muchova had been out injured since last year's US Open, but the World No.74 was able to eke past her countrywoman Martincova, ranked No.46.
Highlights: Muchova def. Martincova
Muchova will now face No.18 seed Leylah Fernandez, last year's US Open runner-up, in the second round.
Also on Wednesday, Alison Riske topped Jil Teichmann 7-6(5), 6-3 in a tilt between Top 50 players, while 42nd-ranked Viktorija Golubic edged past former Top 20 player Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Golubic will next face No.2 seed and last week's Indian Wells champion Iga Swiatek.
More Wednesday highlights: Bronzetti def. Tomljanovic | Kalinskaya def. Montgomery
Also, in a battle between the last two Lyon champions, Zhang Shuai was leading 6-4, 4-6, 2-1 before Clara Tauson retired from their match due to heat illness.