No.20 seed Magda Linette of Poland reached the Round of 16 at the Miami Open for the first time in her career with a 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4 win over former champion and No.14 seed Victoria Azarenka.
Linette had not won a set off of Azarenka in their two previous meetings, including a third-round matchup at this very event in 2016, when Azarenka went on to win one of her three Miami titles.
But it was third time lucky for Linette, who overcame the former World No.1 Azarenka on Saturday in 2 hours and 27 minutes, converting five of her eight break points in the process.
Read more: Pegula soaking in homefield advantage at Miami Open
In the Round of 16, Linette will square off against World No.3 Jessica Pegula for the first time. Pegula defeated her fellow American and No.30 seed Danielle Collins 6-1, 7-6(0) on Saturday.
True GRIT from Linette 😮💨@MagdaLinette defeats three-time champion Azarenka for the first time to reach the second week in Miami!#MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/9xBdFw7rxl— wta (@WTA) March 25, 2023
Linette surge continues: Linette, the Polish No.2 behind top-ranked Iga Swiatek, continues a breakthrough 2023 season. The 31-year-old reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open earlier this year, and now sits at a career-high ranking of World No.19.
Linette had to survive a topsy-turvy match with Azarenka, who served for the first set at 5-4. Linette pulled back on serve and forced a tiebreak, where she grabbed the decisive mini-break at 4-3 with a backhand winner down the line.
Read more: Potapova rallies past Gauff in Miami third round
But after Linette went ahead 2-0 in the second set, Azarenka rediscovered some of her peak Miami Open form, which led her to titles in 2009, 2011 and 2016. Azarenka reeled off eight games in a row to sweep the second set and take a 2-0 lead in the third.
However, Linette would have the final say, breaking Azarenka in her next two service games on her way to a 5-4 lead. Serving for the match in that game, Linette slid back from 40-0 to deuce, but she converted her fourth match point to grab her fourth Top 20 win of the year.
Eyes on the prize 🤙— wta (@WTA) March 25, 2023
No.3 seed @JLPegula beats compatriot Collins 6-1, 7-6(0) to set up a date with Linette in the fourth round!#MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/KNz2w6awa6
Pegula holds on: No.3 seed Pegula was seemingly en route to a much more straightforward victory on Saturday, racing to a one-set lead in just 29 minutes. But Collins kept much closer in the second set, where there were no break points for either player through 6-5.
Highlights: Pegula def. Collins
Pegula earned her first two break points of the set in that game, which doubled as match points, but strong serving by Collins swatted those away, setting up a tiebreak. In the breaker, though, Pegula dominated, charging through without the loss of a point.
Pegula saved both of the break points she faced in the match, and her 13 unforced errors were half of Collins' 26. Pegula has now built a commanding 4-0 head-to-head lead over 2022 Australian Open finalist Collins.
"I thought it was a really solid match," Pegula said. "I kind of was playing a pretty high level to start. Then [Collins] definitely started playing better in the second set, which I expected her to because she's a really great player. I was happy I was able to close that out in a tiebreak."
Looking forward to her next match, Pegula said that she and Linette are "pretty good friends. She had a great win today. She is playing well this year. She had some good wins this year. So it's definitely going to be tough. We know each other's games very, very well.
"I was so happy for her in Australia. ... To see her break through at a Slam, I thought it was so nice because I think it was just so well-deserved to someone like her who is a good person, she works hard, stays in her world. There's no drama with her. She just comes to work and works. To see her getting rewarded like that I thought was really nice."