No.22 seed Belinda Bencic returned to the fourth round of the Miami Open for the first time since her 2015 debut with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Heather Watson, coming from 4-2 down in the first set.
Bencic is the only remaining seed in the top quarter of the draw, a section that saw No.1 Aryna Sabalenka, No.6 Karolina Pliskova, No.11 Emma Raducanu and No.15 Elina Svitolina all lose their opening matches. Watson had been Svitolina's conqueror, the second of her two three-set victories this week. In total, the Briton had spent 6 hours and 4 minutes on court to reach the third round.
The last time Bencic and Watson played, both were competing as wildcards at Indian Wells 2014. Watson won that first-round encounter, which took place five days before Bencic's 17th birthday, 7-5, 6-4. Eight years on, Bencic has converted her prodigious teenage promise into a career highlighted so far by last year's Olympic gold medal and a career high of No.4, and gained a belated revenge.
Turning point: An arduous opening passage of play saw both players having to grind through 11 deuces over the first six games. Neither player had quite found her range, but after being unable to take her first seven break points, Watson eventually moved up 4-2 courtesy of a Bencic double fault.
The World No.115 held a point to consolidate for 5-2, but double faulted herself - triggering a remarkable turnaround that saw Bencic sweep 10 of the last 11 games. Watson double faulted to hand Bencic a break point at 4-4, which the Swiss duly converted.
Bencic settled into a smooth groove to dominate the second set, whipping a series of superb backhand winners to seal the win in 1 hour and 26 minutes. Watson, who had committed to extending rallies as long as possible at the start of the match, aided her opponent by hitting herself out of several points by pulling the trigger too early and while out of position.
In Bencic's words: "She's a very tricky player, I haven't played her in a long time," she said afterwards. "She plays with very much control and she tries to bring you out of position, so it was tricky at the start, but I'm happy I found my flow."
Saville advances to second consecutive WTA 1000 fourth round
Bencic was joined by wildcard Daria Saville, who advanced when Katerina Siniakova retired trailing 6-0, 1-0 due to an abdominal injury.
Saville, on the comeback trail from Achilles surgery, was ranked No.610 one month ago, but has rocketed to No.249 after reaching the Guadalajara quarterfinals and Indian Wells fourth round. The Australian is the second wildcard in as many years to reach the Miami last 16, following Ana Konjuh in 2021.