MIAMI - Indian Wells champion Elena Rybakina needed three sets to keep her hopes of sweeping the Sunshine Double intact at the Miami Open, defeating Anna Kalinskaya 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round on Thursday night. The World No.7 recovered from letting a set and 4-1 lead slip to set up a third-round clash with Paula Badosa on Saturday.
"I'm happy that I managed to win," Rybakina said. "I had chances in the second set to close it out but I was a little bit low on energy and she did a couple of good returns, one double-fault from me. So it didn't go my way in the second but I'm happy that in the third I found my way and won."
In their first meeting at the tour level, Rybakina recovered from a break-down deficit in the first set to power past Kalinskaya from 5-3 down to lead 7-5, 4-1. But a shaky service game at 4-4 gave Kalinskaya the break and the No.64 coolly served out the set to take Rybakina to her fifth deciding set of the season.
Rybakina was able to break open the final set by breaking Kalinskaya for a 4-3 lead and this time, the powerful Kazakh refused to relinquish her lead. Behind 40 winners on the night, including 14 aces, Rybakina closed out the victory just before midnight after 2 hours and 15 minutes.
"I only had two days and today was quite a long day, we're finishing now really late," Rybakina said. "Courts are different, balls are different, so it's not easy at all. But hopefully these three sets will help me in the next round."
9 - Elena Rybakina's win over Anna Kalinskaya was her ninth straight, the longest in her career at WTA level so far. Rybakina has previously achieved seven-game streaks twice, with one culminating in last year's Wimbledon final. Form.#MiamiOpen | @WTA @WTA_insider @MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/INt4FtulIw— OptaAce (@OptaAce) March 24, 2023
Earlier in the day, Elise Mertens overturned a poor history against Daria Kasatkina to upset the No.8 seed 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. The result was Mertens' 10th career Top 10 win and first since she defeated Simona Halep in the third round of Madrid 2021. She will bid to reach the Miami last 16 for a second time against No.29 seed Petra Martic, who defeated Wang Xiyu 6-3, 6-3.
Kasatkina had led the head-to-head series 4-1 coming into the match, with Mertens' sole victory coming in the second round of New Haven in 2017. The Belgian did not win a set in their next three encounters, a pattern that continued when she dropped the opening set from a 3-0 double-break up.
However, Mertens bounced back as Kasatkina, who received a medical time-out toward the end of the second set, began to ail. She had lost her first-set lead thanks to 28 unforced errors but tightened up her game in the second, during which she conceded only four points on serve. In the second and third sets combined, Mertens reduced her error count to 17.
Elise is charged up 🔋@elise_mertens comes from a set down to take out the No.8 seed Kasatkina!#MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/9GdtyPXfIn— wta (@WTA) March 23, 2023
No.39-ranked Mertens deployed smart tactics in the decider as Kasatkina's energy visibly sapped away. Extending the rallies relentlessly, she broke down Kasatkina's forehand to break in the first game. A double fault from Kasatkina handed over the double-break lead for 5-2, and Mertens sealed victory with her third ace of the day.
More Day 3 highlights: Badosa d. Siegemund | Q.Zheng d. Begu
No.21 seed Badosa advanced after a 2-hour, 51-minute battle against qualifier Laura Siegemund 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-2.
Badosa, a quarterfinalist here last year, survived an array of outstanding volleys and drop shots from the German qualifier to level their head-to-head at two wins apiece.
Badosa will next face either Indian Wells champion Elena Rybakina for the second time this month or Anna Kalinskaya.
No.23 seed Zheng Qinwen made a winning return to action to defeat Irina-Camelia Begu 2-6, 6-1, 6-1. The Chinese 20-year-old was forced to withdraw from Dubai and Indian Wells over the past month due to an abdominal injury, but she shook off first-set rust and survived a series of lung-busting third-set rallies to advance. She will next face No.12 seed Liudmila Samsonova, who defeated qualifier Viktorija Golubic 6-1, 6-1.
"At the beginning I was having to struggle a bit on court," said Zheng. "At the beginning it was tough to win a point - I was really happy to be on court, but in the beginning it looked like I was not so into the match. I didn't find the match rhythm. But at the start of the second set I felt a bit better, and I did pretty good at the third set.
"I was going really fast on court, especially hitting the ball really hard. In the second set I tried to slow down, keep the rally more instead of hitting really hard, trying to accelerate where I can but staying with the opponent. As my first match back, it's not a bad start, but I hope I can play a bit better."