Photo : Martin Sidorjak
Two Canadian women scored their first career wins at the Miami Open on Tuesday as both Katherine Sebov and Rebecca Marino set up round two clashes with big-name Americans.
The three-set win from Sebov over rising star Linda Fruhvitova was particularly significant, as it was the 24-year-old’s first win at the WTA 1000 level.
Appearing in her first WTA 1000 match outside of Canada, Sebov showed little nerve against an opponent who had reached the round of 16 at this very tournament last year. When it mattered most, the Canadian was the more composed of the two and brought her best tennis to claim a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win.
Including qualifying and ITF events, Sebov is now on an eight-match winning streak. She is guaranteed to reach a new career-high ranking after Miami.
Read also: Sebov wins Toronto ITF event
Competing in just her second WTA 1000 match overall, Sebov put an impressive 82 per cent of her first serves in play. She also took full advantage of some shaky serving from her teenage opponent, who double-faulted 13 times. The Canadian won 56 per cent of the Czech’s second serve points and 52 per cent of her total points on return.
Despite Fruhvitova being the more experienced of the pair at the WTA 1000-level and in Miami specifically, it was Sebov who looked calmer and more collected at the start of the match, while the 17-year-old looked her age.
An untimely double fault from the young Czech gave Sebov a break point in the opening game which she quickly converted for an early break. Two games later, Fruhvitova double faulted to hand the Canadian a double break lead.
Just when it seemed as though the teen might get back in the match, reclaiming a break for 4-2, she quickly cracked again under the pressure of Sebov powerful flat hitting and handed the break right back, allowing the Canadian to serve out the set.
A lengthy break between sets did not initially allow a reset for Fruhvitova as she failed to convert a trio of break points in the second game before missing her first five serves in the next game, which led to a Sebov break courtesy of a generous net cord.
Read also: Rybakina shines in Indian Wells
However, a pattern began to emerge in the second set of one player breaking and the other immediately responding. After Sebov broke for a 2-1 lead, Fruhvitova got the break right back to level the set.
The Czech broke for her first lead of the match at 5-3, only for Sebov to break back. But Fruhvitova managed to hold her nerve and made it three breaks in a row, this time to claim the set and send the match to a decider.
Sebov stretched the run to four breaks when she took the opening game of the third set before finally getting a hold to take a 2-0 lead. A new run started in the fourth game when, for the second time in the match, there were four consecutive breaks of serve. But it was the Canadian who hung tough and stopped the run, holding serve for a 5-3 lead.
So close to the biggest win of her career, Sebov showed little nerve, continuing to blast away but in the end, it was incredible defence that got her over the finish line, defending brilliantly as Fruhvitova threw everything she across the net on match point, only to eventually dump a shot into the net.
Read also: The rise of female Czech tennis stars
It won’t get any easier for Sebov in Miami as she will meet third seed Jessica Pegula in the second round, her second clash with a Top 5 opponent in just three main draw matches in 2023.
Marino dominant for first Miami win
Rebecca Marino hit the ground running in Miami on Tuesday, scoring just her second match win at a Masters 1000 event outside of Canada by defeating Yulia Putintseva in straight sets.
It was a clinic in power tennis from the Canadian, who pummeled the Kazakhstani into submission and eventually broke her down as the match went along for a 7-6(4), 6-2 win.
Serving big is always critical for Marino and she was locked in on Tuesday, blasting 10 aces and winning 81 per cent of her first serve points. She lost just 15 points on serve in the match and never faced a break point. Even her return was strong as she created 10 break point opportunities, converting a pair.
Persistence paid off for Marino at the end of a first set that was closer than the Canadian deserved. Every opportunity belonged to Marino, who had five break points including a love-40 triple set point opportunity at 6-5 and a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak.
Read and listen: Brad Gilbert on Match Point Canada
Putintseva stubbornly refused to go away despite winning just 10 points on the Canadian’s serve in the opening set. But Marino finished strong, winning the last four points of the breaker to take the lead
The first game of the second set completely changed the tone of the match when Putintseva looked ready to hold up 40-love, only to blow the lead and then dump a backhand into the net on break point to finally drop serve.
With the lead, Marino was ruthless. She continued to serve lights out and attack the Kazakhstani’s serve as Putintseva started to come undone. After surviving a pair of break points in the third game, errors continued to fly off of Putintseva’s racket and she double-faulted to surrender a love break and go down 4-1.
That was plenty for Marino who wrapped up the match without too much fuss. The difficulty will be ramped up in a big way in round two as the Canadian will meet sixth seed Coco Gauff.
Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Annie Fernandez are also in the women’s draw and will play their first-round matches on Wednesday. Andreescu will open the day on Stadium Court against former US Open champion Emma Raduncanu, while Leylah Annie Fernandez will take on qualifier Lesia Tsurenko fourth on Grandstand after 11 am.