2023 Miami Open: Qualifier Eubanks, resurgent Kenin join seeds in third round
Qualifier Chris Eubanks, a resurgent Sofia Kenin and an in-form Mackenzie McDonald joined American seeds including Taylor Fritz, Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula in reaching the third round of the Miami Open.
In the first round of action for the Top 32 at Hard Rock Stadium, five of the seven U.S. seeds to reach the third round didn't lose a set over the last two days, while No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul each battled back from a set down to advance on the men's side.
Eubanks also rallied to keep his career-best run at a Masters 1000 event going: He came from behind to beat reigning Western & Southern Open champion and No. 17 seed Borna Coric of Croatia 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, putting him into the third round at this level for the first time. The 26-year-old Georgia Tech grad trailed by a set and a break, but earned his maiden victory against a Top 20 player by being "disruptive," he said, and showing off his variety to counter Coric's strong baseline game.
Coming into Miami, Eubanks had lost four straight matches, and five of seven dating back to the Australian Open.
"The past few weeks leading into here wasn't the best," Eubanks said afterwards. "There's been a lot of questioning, a lot of doubts going through my mind. ... It's just throwing everything else out the window and just saying, 'Hey, if I continue to play and do what I've been doing, good things are going to happen at some point,' and today was evidence of that."
Elsewhere, McDonald also knocked off a Top 20 seed with a 7-6(8), 7-6(5) win over No. 19 Matteo Berrettini of Italy. World No.55 McDonald saved set points in both sets to beat Berrettini for the first time in three career meetings. Tiafoe (6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-4) and Paul (5-7, 6-3, 6-4) each dropped the first set against Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki, and Swiss Marc-Andrea Huesler, respectively, before winning in three sets. World No. 123 Watanuke was particularly impressive as Saturday night turned into the early hours of Sunday against Tiafoe, hitting 55 winners in 2 hours and 46 minutes.
"It was brutal tonight, just one of those nights you try to get over the line," Tiafoe said. "I was a little frustrated as I had never seen him play and he played very well and was hitting incredibly from the baseline. He was playing lights out and I was on the back foot a lot. He played a hell of a match tonight, so give respect where respect is due.
"He was so red hot but I was hoping his level might drop in glimpses and I did a good job of taking advantage when it did.”
The path through to Round 3 was much smoother for No. 9 seed Fritz, who was a 6-4, 6-1 winner over 21-year-old American wild card Emilio Nava, who beat John Isner in the first round. Nava broke Fritz in the opening game of the match, but the higher-ranked American won seven straight games from 4-4 in the first set en route to safely advancing.
On the women's side, Kenin was one of two unseeded Americans to advance, along with California's Claire Liu—who benefitted from the last-minute withdrawal of world No. 1 and 2022 champion Iga Swiatek and was instead a straight-sets winner over Austrian lucky loser Julia Grabher. The duo will join Gauff, Pegula, No. 19 seed Madison Keys and No. 30 seed Danielle Collins in the third round.
Kening lost to eventual champion Elena Rybakina in two high-quality tiebreak sets in the second round of last week's BNP Paribas Open, but has now won back-to-back matches for the second time this year with her effort so far in Miami. After beating Australia's Storm Hunter in the opening round, the 2020 Australian Open champion served four aces and broke serve four times in a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 29 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. Another resurgent major-winner awaits her: She'll next face 2019 US Open champ Bianca Andreescu, who knocked off No. 7 seed Maria Sakkari in a three-plus hour epic.
Projected to meet in the quarterfinals, No. 6 seed Gauff and No. 3 seed Pegula lost a combined 11 games against a pair of Canadians—Rebecca Marino and Katherine Sebov, respectively—while Keys was a 6-4, 6-4 winner over 2021 US Open junior champion Robin Montgomery, who won her first WTA main-draw match in the first round.
An all-American Round 3 awaits Pegula next; she'll face Collins, who was a 7-6(3), 6-2 winner over Bulgaria's Viktoriya Tomova.