The biggest tennis stars don’t come out until Thursday and Friday, but the fans who attended the Miami Open on Wednesday went home with plenty to talk about.
They were treated to a sun-splashed day, a breezy night and a collection of characters ranging from Victor Estrella Burgos, a 34-year-old Dominican playing the best tennis of his life, to Belinda Bencic, an 18-year-old Swiss miss who won her opening match in straight sets over Daniela Hantuchova.
She is coached by Martina Hingis’ mother and last year became the youngest U.S. Open quarterfinalist since Hingis.
In between was the return of two-time Key Biscayne champion Victoria Azarenka after a two-year absence. The former world No.1, down to No.36 after a series of injuries, cruised past Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-1, 6-3.
“Coming back to a place where I have a lot of great memories, it’s always nice,” Azarenka said. “My first big win was here, and my first win over Serena [Williams]. It took me a while to get another one after that. But I was 19 years old, to win such a big title at such a young age, it meant a lot. I think I left a pretty good mark winning here.”
She said playing here at 25 is a different experience.
“I remember when I came here and won my first two matches in a row, how excited I was,” Azarenka said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I made it to the third round in Miami, and I played Anastasia Myskina.’ For me, it felt like I won a Grand Slam. But, obviously, being here at 25, it feels a little bit different.”
It was a good day for the Americans. Winners included Christina McHale, Alison Riske, Jack Sock, Donald Young, Irina Falconi, Sam Querrey and Coral Springs’ Sloane Stephens, who defeated Yanina Wickmayer 6-1, 6-3 in a night match.
Falconi, a qualifier ranked 100th, needed two and a half hours to eliminate Miami resident Monica Puig 7-6 (11-9), 7-6 (7-3).
Querrey won 6-4, 6-3 under the lights against Estrella Burgos, who last month became the oldest first-time ATP titlist (Ecuador Open) and first player from the Dominican Republic to win an ATP crown. Estrella Burgos has jumped from No.331 two years ago to No.55.
The oldest American tennis star, the 33-year-old Williams, was on the tournament grounds Wednesday, hitting for the first time since injuring her knee last week and withdrawing from the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California. She was still feeling pain but said when she stepped on the practice court Wednesday there was little doubt in her mind that she will be ready to go for her first match Friday night.
“I didn’t think I would be doing this interview [Wednesday],” Williams said. “I stepped on the court and I was just like, ‘I love this place.’ You know, I love playing at home. I live just down the road.
“I don’t feel any pressure because I have won this title a few times, so I feel good about being here. When I hit on the court today, just something about Miami, you know. I just feel so good out here. So I was like, ‘Oh, this is fun.’ I'm just looking forward to just enjoying myself this year more than anything.”
She had an anti-inflammatory injection last week, but other than that has just been managing the pain.
Top-ranked Williams has won 19 Grand Slams and seven Key Biscayne titles, but says she stills feels youthful.
“I don't feel old at all,’’ said said.
“I think that's what keeps me in it. I always look at it and I'm like, `I have been on the tour a hundred years.’ It's a joke, but, like, I definitely don't feel older. I don't feel like 33, if it's old. I definitely listen to the same music. I try to keep myself current. I say the current words like, fleek. (Laughter). I'm on top of it.’’
Williams is scheduled to play her first match Friday night against Monica Niculescu. The Thursday schedule features Juan Martin del Potro, Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova.
Donald Young, United States, d. Yen-hsun Lu, Taiwan, 5-1, retired.
Jan-Lennard Struff, Germany, d. Benjamin Becker, Germany, 3-6, 7-6 (12-10), 6-4.
Carlos Berlocq, Argentina, d. Thanasi Kokkinakis, Australia, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Jack Sock, United States, d. Go Soeda, Japan, 6-3, 6-4.
Chung Hyeon, South Korea, d. Marcel Granollers, Spain, 6-0, 4-6, 6-4.
Nicolas Almagro, Spain, d. Sergiy Stakhovsky, Ukraine, 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4.
Robin Haase, Netherlands, d. Kyle Edmund, Britain, 6-2, 6-2.
Jarkko Nieminen, Finland, d. Marinko Matosevic, Australia, 6-3, 6-3.
Filip Krajinovic, Serbia, d. Dusan Lajovic, Serbia, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-2, retired.
James Duckworth, Australia, d. Damir Dzumhur, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Spain, d. Joao Sousa, Portugal, 6-2, 6-2.
Dominic Thiem, Austria, d. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina, 7-6 (7-0), 7-5.
Sam Querrey, United States, d. Victor Estrella Burgos, Dominican Republic, 6-4, 6-3.
Tim Smyczek, United States, d. Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, Spain, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Austin Krajicek, United States, d. Denis Istomin, Uzbekistan, 6-4, 6-4.
Juan Monaco, Argentina, d. Ruben Bemelmans, Belgium, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4.
Belinda Bencic, Switzerland, d. Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5).
Christina McHale, United States, d. Sorana Cirstea, Romania, 7-5, 6-4.
Annika Beck, Germany, d. Zhang Shuai, China, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Alison Riske, United States, d. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia, 6-4, 6-0.
Tsvetana Pironkova, Bulgaria, d. Kateryna Kozlova, Ukraine, 6-4, 6-3.
Daria Gavrilova, Russia, d. Marina Erakovic, New Zealand, 5-1, retired.
Elena Vesnina, Russia, d. Alexandra Dulgheru, Romania, 6-4, 6-2.
Heather Watson, Britain, d. Evgeiniya Rodina, Russia, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.
Urszula Radwanska, Poland, d. CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3.
Stefanie Voegele, Switzerland, d. Kirsten Flipkens, Belgium, 6-2, 6-2.
Pauline Parmentier, France, d. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Tatjana Maria, Germany, d. Roberta Vinci, Italy, 7-6 (11-9), 6-3.
Nicole Vaidisova, Czech Republic, d. Timea Babos, Hungary, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4).
Victoria Azarenka, Belarus, d. Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Spain, 6-1, 6-3.
Julia Goerges, Germany, d. Jana Cepelova, Slovakia, 6-1, 6-0.
Alison Van Uytvanck, Belgium, d. Magdalena Rybarikova, Slovakia, 7-5, 2-6, 6-0.
Irina Falconi, United States, d. Monica Puig, Puerto Rico, 7-6 (11-9), 7-6 (7-3).
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia, d. Vera Zvonareva, Russia, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Sesil Karatantcheva, Bulgaria, d. Lauren Davis, United States, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).
Sloane Stephens, United States, d. Yanina Wickmayer, Belgium, 6-1, 6-3.
11 a.m.: Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs. Anna Schmiedlova (SVK)
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) vs. Simone Bolelli (ITA)
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) vs. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
Not before 5 p.m.: Venus Williams (USA) vs. Urszula Radwanska (POL)
Not Before 7:30 p.m.: Daria Gavrilova (RUS) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Not Before 9 p.m.: Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) vs. Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
10:50 a.m.: Andrey Golubev (KAZ) vs. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT) vs. Borna Coric (CRO)
Madison Brengle (USA) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
Ricardas Berankis (LTU) vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)
Not Before 5 p.m.: Ryan Harrison (USA) vs. Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
11 a.m.: Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) vs. Steve Johnson (USA)
Christina Mchale (USA) vs. A. Petkovic (GER)
Jerzy Janowicz (POL) vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
Not Before 4 p.m.: Marin Draganja (CRO)/Henri Kontinen (FIN) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA)/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
Jiri Vesely (CZE) vs. Federico Delbonis (ARG)
11: a.m.: Michael Berrer (GER) vs. Alejandro Falla (COL)
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs. Kaia Kanepi (EST)
John Isner (USA)/Sam Querrey (USA) vs. Rohan Bopanna (IND)/Daniel Nestor (CAN)
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) vs. Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs. P. Carreno Busta (ESP)