The parallels between Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu have made for a compelling narrative.
Both were born in Toronto and have Romanian heritage and both won the US Open as teenagers in their tournament debut. Since then, after struggling with injuries and inconsistency, both entered the Miami Open as unseeded first-round opponents.
On Wednesday, Andreescu knocked off Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in 2 hours and 33 minutes.
Andreescu, the 2021 finalist here, won their first-round match in Rome last year after Raducanu retired trailing 6-2, 2-1 with a lower back injury. This time round, the opponents went toe-to-toe for three captivating sets.
The 22-year-old Canadian will next take on No.7 seed Maria Sakkari in the second round. She has split two previous meetings with Sakkari, both of which came down to the wire. Andreescu won 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(4) in the 2021 Miami semifinals, but Sakkari got a 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-3 win in the fourth round of the US Open a few months later.
"You never know what to expect," Andreescu said on court. "I just came in here wanting to play my best with what I had today, and I think I did that. Emma played amazing. She's an incredible player and I have a lot of respect for her.
"I didn't let my negative emotions get the best of me. I stayed positive, I was very energetic and I never gave up."
Match moments: Andreescu's lightning start was decisive in the first set. Ultra-aggressive tactics on return enabled her to break Raducanu off the bat, a lead she maintained for the rest of the set. She repeatedly opened up the court by injecting pace at the Raducanu backhand and slammed down four aces among 12 winners. Robbed of time to settle, Raducanu contributed 15 unforced errors to only three winners.
Raducanu fought back in the second set with greater aggression, particularly in the crucial eighth game. This was a superb tug-of-war between the two. Time and again, Raducanu forced her way to break point, and time and again, Andreescu fended it off. At deuce for a 10th time, Raducanu found her best forehand winner of the game and converted her seventh break point as Andreescu went wide.
In the decider, Andreescu regrouped to deliver a superior performance on big points. She saved all four break points that she faced, including overturning a 0-40 deficit in the first game. In the sixth game, Raducanu double-faulted -- the only one of the match from either player -- to bring up break points for Andreescu. She converted the second with a thumping forehand down the line.
"I think that in the third obviously I went Love-40 first game on her serve," Raducanu said afterward. "She played a few good service points. I missed one second-serve return, which I went for against the wind. Then I think that I was going for my shots early third set, but I was just missing."
By the numbers: Andreescu tallied 32 winners, including seven aces, to Raducanu's 20. She committed 34 unforced errors to the 20-year-old's 40. Both players brought their best tennis out under pressure, reflected in the 11 break points that Andreescu saved out of 12 and the eight Raducanu saved out of 11.
Fernandez fends off Tsurenko, sets meeting with Bencic
Andreescu's fellow Canadian, Leylah Fernandez, was also a first-round winner in Miami. The 20-year-old left-hander came back from deficits in both sets to oust Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 6-3 and win a main-draw match at the Miami Open for the first time.
Fernandez will now square off against No.9 seed Belinda Bencic in the second round. They have split their four previous meetings, but 2021 Olympic gold medalist Bencic has won the last two.
On Wednesday, Fernandez -- who was runner-up to Raducanu at the 2021 US Open -- cracked 25 winners to Tsurenko's 14 in a high-quality affair on the Grandstand court, in the first meeting between the two.
The Canadian had lost the only previous Miami Open main-draw match of her career last year to Karolina Muchova. The 2023 edition started inauspiciously for Fernandez as well, as former US Open quarterfinalist Tsurenko took a 4-0 lead in the first set.
However, Fernandez pulled back level, reaching 4-4 with a dropshot winner, and she went all the way to the one-set lead from there, reeling off six games in a row after being down the double-break.
Fernandez was twice down a break in the second set as well, but she used her stunning speed and excellent timing to win out in rallies down the stretch. Fernandez saved two break points in the final game of the match before slamming a rally forehand winner to prevail.