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Three To See: Andreescu-Anisimova launch rivalry, Pegula-Pliskova III
At the Miami Open on Sunday, who will win a first-time meeting: Bianca Andreescu or Amanda Anisimova? And can Jessica Pegula beat Karolina Pliskova for the third time this month?
Published Mar 28, 2021
Before each day's play at the 2021 Miami Open, we'll preview three matches to look out for.
Andreescu is 20—Anisimova is 19. Could this be the first match of a rivalry that blooms in distant future? After being MIA for the entirety of 2020 thanks to an unrelenting left knee injury, Andreescu is in the midst of only her third tournament back. The 2019 US Open champion accrued six important matches in February, reaching the semifinals of the Phillip Island Trophy at Melbourne Park following her Australian Open exit in the second round.
During her latest press conference, the Canadian openly talked about being overwhelmed when she finally returned Down Under, adding that more match play will help her “get back into the groove of being on tour.” Anisimova is looking to do the same, for different reasons. Her 2021 began with a positive COVID-19 test in Abu Dhabi, and a second trip to the Middle East saw the American roll an ankle in Doha. “I have been training a lot the last couple of weeks, so I feel good mentally and physically,” the resident of nearby Aventura said after beating Sloane Stephens Friday.
At the 2015 Eddie Herr Invitational—a distinguished junior event—a 14-year-old Anisimova left a 15-year-old Andreescu “pretty pissed” after prevailing in three. Can she do the same on a much bigger stage?
On Friday, Medvedev avoided an upset bug that saw six men’s seeds lose their openers. Popyrin was among the competitors who had a hand in the exodus when he dropped six games to handily defeat No. 30 seed Reilly Opelka. The Australian has won one set in seven played with Medvedev, though this is his first look at the two-time major finalist in a best-of-three format. And like Medvedev, Popyrin has come to play in 2021, raising his first ATP trophy in Singapore.
But Medvedev might be ready to build another double-digit win streak. After seeing his unbeaten 20-match run ended by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final—and later losing to Dusan Lajovic in Rotterdam—the 25-year-old triumphed on indoor hard at Marseille. Miami’s conditions are right up his alley, and with Djokovic not in South Florida, the opportunity to chip away at the Serbian’s sizable No. 1 gap before the calendar shifts to clay provides Medvedev an extra incentive to live up to his seeding.
It’s not often a player beats the same opponent three times in the same month. Yet, Pegula has the chance to do just that against the former world No. 1. On March 4, Pegula ousted Pliskova, 6-3, 6-1, in Doha. Six days later, she laid down an even more emphatic win over the Czech, 6-2, 6-0, in Dubai.
While the scorelines raised eyebrows, Pegula's wins were hardly out of left field. The 27-year-old gave herself time to recharge following her major quarterfinal debut in Melbourne, where she outclassed Victoria Azarenka and Elina Svitolina. Pliskova has struggled to manufacture any sort of momentum since reaching the Rome final in September, going 8-8. But... she just might be in the right environment to provide relief on that front, having finished runner-up two years ago when the Miami Open moved to Hard Rock Stadium.