By Tucker Verdi
Take the rankings, take the previous titles, take the prize money, and just throw it all out.
In tennis, none of it matters once the players are on court. All the prestige of a superstar and all the doubts of an unknown challenger go by the wayside, and the two just play tennis. In this sport, anything can happen. And on Thursday at the 2018 Miami Open, it did.
The first day of the second round of women’s singles play was highlighted by the upsets of tournament mainstays by unknown challengers. 8 of the 16 seeded women on court Thursday are packing their bags and headed home.
It began with American Christina McHale taking down No. 25 seed Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-4 in a match that lasted almost two hours, a lengthy spectacle for only a two-setter.
US and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was handily beaten by Kazak player Zarina Diyas 6-1, 6-3 in a quick 60-minute match. Also going down was No. 12 seed German Julia Gorges, who fell to compatriot Carina Witthoeft 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-4, in a grueling two-and-a-half hour match. The last seeded player, No. 32 seed Sorana Cirstea, lost to Su-Wei Hsieh 7-5, 6-2.
No. 14 seed Madison Keys was forced to retire while trailing 0-2 in the second set of her match against former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. The former Grand Slam champ had taken the first set from Keys in a tiebreak, 7-6(5).
The most notable upsets, however, were by qualifiers who have kept defying the odds and are progressing into the third round.
Monica Niculescu of Romania defeated last year’s Wimbledon semifinalist No. 17 seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-3, and Yafan Wang spoiled No. 25 seed Carla Suarez Navarro’s tournament hopes 7-5, 6-3.
American qualifier Allison Riske pulled the biggest upset of the day, ending No. 7 seed Caroline Garcia’s tournament stay 6-3, 6-1, in just over an hour.
The day filled with upsets included some close calls as well for top-ranked players. World No. 1 Simona Halep gave up the first set 3-6 to Lucky Loser Oceane Dodin before exerting her dominance and winning the second and third 6-3 and 7-5, respectively. No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova fought off a tough challenge from Ekaterina Makarova, who she’d never beaten before in her career, in a 7-5, 7-5, match deserving of a third set.
Grand Slam champions Angeligue Kerber (No. 10) and Sloane Stephens (No. 13), however, each coasted to victory in their first matches of the tournament, 6-2, 6-2 and 6-1, 6-3, respectively.
For full match results, visit miamiopen.com/2018-results