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Despite Azarenka injury cloud, no rain on Linda Fruhvirtova's parade in Miami
The 16-year-old Czech became the youngest to reach the fourth round in Miami since 2004 after former champ Azarenka made an abrupt exit.
Published Mar 27, 2022
WATCH: Fruhvirtova stopped by the Tennis Channel Live desk after her shock victory in Miami.
Just when I was getting used to watching players who were born in the late 1990s, along comes Linda Fruhvirtova. It’s one thing to hear that the Czech, who is into the fourth round at the Miami Open, is 16 years old. It’s another, and somehow much more shocking thing, to realize she was born in 2005.
Maybe that’s what was bothering her opponent, 32-year-old Victoria Azarenka, who made her WTA debut the same year—and almost the same week—that Fruhvirtova was born. Whatever the reason was, Vika was over this match before the match itself was over.
She was out of sorts from the start. In the first game, Azarenka shook her arms out in irritation. A few games later, she stretched her back. Down 2-4, she could be heard bashing something with her racquet on the sideline. By the start of the second set, she was trying to end points as quickly as she could, and sending service returns 10 feet over the baseline. At 0-2 in the second set, she looked at her team and drew her hand across her neck. “I’m outta here,” seemed to be the message.
But it was still a shock when, a few seconds later, Vika really was outta there.
On her way to the sideline, Azarenka told chair umpire Cecilia Alberti she wanted to stop. The umpire started to call for a trainer, but before she could finish a sentence, Vika had her bag and was bolting off the court. She quickly shook Fruhvirtova’s hand before vanishing without an explanation, or a hint of an injury. The umpire, who had received her own drive-by handshake from the Belarusian, called after her: “Vika, we have to wait,” but Vika wasn’t waiting for anything.
It was a strange scene, but not an entirely unprecedented one. Two weeks ago, Amanda Anisimova bolted off the court in Indian Wells after squandering a second-set lead to Leylah Fernandez. Anisimova eventually said she was ill; as of this afternoon, there was no word on why Azarenka called it a day.
While Vika’s departure may be the story of the moment, Fruhvirtova is a story for the future. After her wins over Danka Kovinic, 20th-seeded Elise Mertens, and Azarenka, she’s the youngest woman to make the round of 16 in Miami since Tatiana Golovin in 2004. Fruhvirtova, a wild card here, started the week ranked No. 277. Her most impressive result so far was a semifinal run in the girls’ draw at Wimbledon last summer.
“It’s definitely one of my best tournaments so far,” Fruhvirtova said, before quickly correcting that understatement. “I think the best one. I never played against a Top 25 player, and yeah, it’s unbelievable.”
It’s definitely one of my best tournaments so far...I think the best one. I never played against a Top 25 player, and yeah, it’s unbelievable. Linda Fruhvirtova
Fruhvirtova trains at the Mouratoglou Academy in France, as well as the Evert Academy in Florida, alongside her younger sister, Brenda. Not surprisingly, they say their goals are “to win Grand Slam titles” and “reach No. 1.”
Set to play No. 5 seed Paula Badosa next, Fruhvirtova is off to a strong start. Her game reminds me a little of Azarenka’s. She takes the same smooth and confident crosscourt rip with her two-handed backhand that Vika has been taking since she was a teenager, and she can control a point with that shot alone.
Otherwise, Fruhvirtova’s forehand gained pace as this match went along; she has a solid first serve, but her second serve lacks net clearance at times; and most important, she competes fearlessly. She didn’t hesitate to wave her index finger in the air after one especially good forehand pass. No. 1—that’s where she’s pointing.
With Ashleigh Barty in retirement, 20-year-old Iga Swiatek now No. 1, and teenagers Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez coming off final-round appearances at last year’s US Open, the WTA may be in the midst of a youth movement. You can add Fruhvirtova—the youngest all of them—to that list. It’s hard to believe that the class of 2005 is here. It wasn’t something that Victoria Azarenka wanted to stick around and contemplate today.