Three To See, Miami: Fognini-Korda, Azarenka-Kerber, Konta-Kvitova

Three To See, Miami: Fognini-Korda, Azarenka-Kerber, Konta-Kvitova

A day after beating Fabio Fognini in doubles, can Sebastian Korda do it in singles on Saturday? Also at the Miami Open, Petra Kvitova and Johanna Konta will square off in the final match of the day on Grandstand.

Before each day's play at the 2021 Miami Open, we'll preview three matches to look out for.

[10] Fabio Fognini vs. Sebastian Korda

A day after beating Fognini in doubles, can Korda do it on the singles court? Since the ATP tour resumed last August, Korda has blossomed, rising from No. 225 to inside the Top 90. The 20-year-old opened 2021 with his first ATP final in Delray Beach and tacked on a Challenger title at Quimper 1. Korda’s had two cracks at Top 20 opponents in his young career, losing to Denis Shapovalov at the 2020 US Open and Felix Auger-Aliassime this past week in Acapulco.

Fognini reached the semifinals here in 2017, but outside of that showing, Miami has been a tournament to forget for the Italian. The Sanremo native can dominate the highlight reel with his shot-making talent, but he can also lose interest in the task at hand. With a chance to play an American on U.S. soil later in the day (fourth on), let’s assume Fognini is keen to play his part in putting on a show for the fortunate fans in the stands.

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[14] Victoria Azarenka vs. [24] Angelique Kerber

The head-to-head series may be severely lopsided, but how can one ignore a third-round blockbuster between a pair of multiple major winners and former world No. 1s? Azarenka has lost just once in nine clashes with the German and amazingly, all but one encounter has played out on hard courts. That said, the two have only crossed paths once since Azarenka took their semifinal showdown here in 2016, on her way to a third Miami Open crown (2019 Monterrey).

Unlike the Belarusian, who won ‘Cincinnati in New York’ and reached the US Open final last summer, Kerber hasn’t factored into the conversation during the pandemic era. Perhaps Friday’s doubles win alongside Simona Halep over Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka will loosen her up to pull the trigger more often against an equally fierce athlete. Azarenka has proven time and time again that she’s committed to hitting through the gritty left-hander, an approach that surely won’t change come Saturday.

[9] Petra Kvitova vs. [17] Johanna Konta

These competitors have met just twice away from British grass in five prior meetings. Konta cut the series gap to 2-3 when she rallied to a three-set win in the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2019. Miami is by far the Brit’s best 1000-level tournament, as a second-round win over Magda Linette saw Konta improve to 13-3. It was four years ago when Konta raised her biggest trophy to date after beating Halep, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki in succession at Crandon Park, the longtime former venue.

The same can’t be said of Kvitova at the South Florida tour stop, where she holds a modest 13-10 lifetime record, though the lefty has a recency bias on her side. Kvitova kicked her March off by triumphing in Doha, posting quality wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Anett Kontaveit and Jessica Pegula before delivering a sizzling final knockout punch against Garbiñe Muguruza. The victory ended a near two-year title drought and ensured Kvitova remained inside the Top 10. She's also won both hard-court tussles versus Konta.