Christina McHale advances at Miami Open, will face Serena Williams

Christina McHale hits a shot during her first-round win at the Miami Open on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 in Key Biscayne.
Christina McHale hits a shot during her first-round win at the Miami Open on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 in Key Biscayne. AP

American Christina McHale advanced to the second round of the Miami Open on Wednesday with a three-set victory over Japan’s Misaki Doi at Crandon Park. McHale defeated Doi 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, and the South Florida crowd took interest in the match midway through the third set.

“I love playing in the U.S.,” McHale said. “When I was serving [in the third set] down 5-4, they really started getting into it … anytime I can have the crowd’s support, it’s a huge help.”

McHale might not have the fans on her side in the second round, where she will face top-seeded Serena Williams, a local favorite who was one of the 23-year-old McHale’s idols while growing up.

“I’ll be nervous to have to play her, but it’ll be a good experience for me,” McHale said.

McHale played with Williams at the 2012 Olympics representing the United States and also has been on Fed Cup teams with the world’s top-ranked player.

The McHale family made tennis headlines in Indian Wells, California, when ATP pro Ryan Harrison proposed to McHale’s younger sister, Lauren McHale. The younger McHale played college tennis at the University of North Carolina, and Christina said she has tried to coax her younger sister back into action.

“I always wanted her to try and play doubles,” Christina McHale said of her sister. “Maybe one tournament.”

CoCo Vandeweghe also advanced to the second round, defeating fellow American Samantha Crawford 6-4, 7-5. A familiar foe awaits Vandeweghe in her next match: Carla Suárez Navarro, who is seeded sixth in Miami and eliminated Vandeweghe in the Round of 64 at both the 2013 and 2014 U.S. Opens.

“She’s a really tough player to play against,” Vandeweghe said. “She’s ranked where she is for a reason. Getting the first win [in Miami] under my belt is extremely confidence-boosting … hopefully that translates really well into the Suárez Navarro match.”

▪ On the men’s side, 18-year-old American Taylor Fritz won his first-round match as a qualifier, defeating Italy’s Simone Bolelli, 6-4, 6-2. Fritz advances to face eighth-seeded David Ferrer in the second round, and he’s excited for the challenge.

“He’s going to be the best player I’ve ever played against,” Fritz said of Ferrer. “I’m really excited, it’ll be a good opportunity.”

Fritz comes from a tennis family. His mother, Kathy May Fritz, was a top-ten women’s singles player in the late 1970s, and his father, Guy Fritz, also played professionally and also served as head tennis coach at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California.

“[Tennis] was just always around me growing up,” Fritz said. “I played pretty much every other sport … in the end it always went back to tennis. It was just like a lifestyle.”

▪ In the first night match, Juan Martín Del Potro continued his comeback from injury, defeating his first round opponent, fellow Argentine Guido Pella, 6-0, 7-6. Del Potro, who was once a top-five player, is currently ranked 366th in the world. He has undergone four wrist surgeries, with the most recent coming last June. Del Potro’s second-round opponent is third-seeded Roger Federer. The match will be the 21st meeting between the two veterans. Federer has won 15 of his previous 20 matches against Del Potro, but the Argentine defeated Federer in five sets to win the 2009 U.S. Open final.

In the second night match, 16-year-old American CiCi Bellis was scheduled to face Puerto Rican Mónica Puig, with the winner advancing to meet Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka won last weekend’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, defeating Williams in the final.