Dialed In, Linette Starts Season Solidly In Miami

Magda Linette (right) with Sofia Kenin (photo: @MagdaLinette/Twitter)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 24, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

When Magda Linette stepped onto the Grandstand show court at the Miami Open presented by Itaú to play the opening match in the combined ATP/WTA 1000-series event Tuesday afternoon, finally, she was making her season debut in the WTA tour’s 14th event. Better late than never, right?

The 50th-ranked Linette, a native of Poznan, Poland, defeated 16-year-old American wild card Robin Montgomery from Washington, D.C., ranked 368th, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0. It was her first match in more than four months after undergoing surgery to repair a knee injury in the off-season, while it was a big moment in the career development of teenager Montgomery.

Analyzing the match for Tennis Channel, Hall of Famer Lindsay Davenport said of Linette: “She is so good and so solid from the back of the court. Linette was able to stand right inside the baseline for the first set and dictate play – changing direction and overwhelming Montgomery.

“Linette was able to reboot early in the third set, got a little more consistent, and got a few errors from Montgomery. Linette was dialed in all day with her backhand and she was able to cruise in the third set.”

Coming from a European country that hasn’t produced a large number of tennis players, Linette, 29, turned pro in 2009 and began her career in the shadows of Agnieszka Radwanka. Now, it’s reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, just 19, who is capturing much of the limelight in Poland and has leaped into the Top 20 since winning her first Grand Slam title. While Linette reached the first of her four straight Top 100 seasons in 2015, it wasn’t until summer 2019 that she won her first WTA title, at age 27, at the Bronx Open in New York, and spring-boarded into the Top 50.

“It means really a lot,” Linette said, quoted by the WTA website, after winning her first WTA title. “It gives a lot of boost – you know, for the confidence, and also a reward. Finally, it’s a reward for us, for all the hard work.”

Indeed, Linette enjoyed a bit of a breakout year in 2019, winning 41 matches. She considers hard courts and grass to be her favorite surfaces. Last year, because of the five-month lockdown of the WTA season due to the global pandemic, Linette appeared in just 22 matches and went 11-11. However, she won her second career title in February 2020 at Hua Hin, Thailand, where she collected five of her victories and reached a career-high ranking of No. 33. It was during that tournament that she became a fan favorite, thanks to her WTA “Shot of the Year” against Peng Shuai in the second round.


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Then, Linette went 5-7 after the tour resumed played in August and her best result came at the US Open, where she reached the third round. However, following the end of the season in Ostrava, Linette required knee surgery, which kept her off the tour until this week.

“I’m really glad I had a tough match and had to struggle a little bit. I went through all of the emotions already in the first round,” Linette, a baseline specialist and counterpuncher, told Tennis Channel in a sit-down interview after her match, her first since undergoing surgery.

While playing real matches is different than practice, Linette was asked how her knee held up? “It was good. I think I was still up and down in the second set,” she said. “[Robin] was playing way much better in the second set; she loosened up and played some really great shots. I’m really glad I could come back in the third set – a solid set – and I was on top of my game after it had really dropped. I’m really glad.”

When Linette was asked how tricky it was playing against a 16-year-old (Montgomery) who had nothing to lose, she said, “I think it’s tricky because of how powerful she is, and she can bump the ball from any spot really on the court. She has great top-spin and a really good serve. A lefty is always really difficult.”

Linette was queried about how she turned the match around after losing the second set and turned it on in the third set to win 6-0. “I had a little bit of a shutdown [in the second set]. I started to focus on my serve,” she said. “I was missing too many first serves [earlier in the match]. She had a tendency to attack me and I was not having that advantage on my service games. With a player that strong, it’s difficult to break her every single time.”

With sunny temperatures in the mid-70s (F), Linette said she’s enjoying the Miami weather. “It makes all the difference. It’s really enjoyable for me. I’m also biased because I was out for five months. I’m super happy I’m here and can be back playing,” she said.

Next, Linette faces No. 17 Johanna Konta of Great Britain for the first time. “I’m really glad I had that match already because of my [five-month] break. She will be a difficult opponent. She’s always brings good effort, really good mentality and intensity. I know I will have to be in my best shape to really stand up to her and fight and possibly get a win.”

Around the Hard Rock Stadium

Danielle Collins of the United States, a 2018 Miami Open semifinalist, advanced to meet No. 32 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia after defeating Kristina Mladenovic of France, 6-3, 6-3, in one hour and 22 minutes to begin play Wednesday on the Grandstand.

The 40th-ranked Collins won 82 percent of her first-serve points – well above her season average of 67 percent) – and hit 27 winners. She broke No. 56 Mladenovic’s serve six times en route to her 10th victory of 2021.

“Kristina and I are friends,” said Collins during her on-court interview after the match. “It’s never easy playing against somebody you have good vibes with. I had a tough match against her before. She’s a tough player. I just tried to come out here and do a little bit better than the last time.” The last time the two faced each other was in 2019 at Beijing, won by Mladenovic 6-3, 6-2. This time, in Miami, Collins outpointed Mladenovic 63-42 and controlled the match throughout.

• Guadalajara titlist Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, ranked 58th, won the final six games of the match, saving match points, against 68th-ranked American Bernarda Pera and won 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in two hours and 42 minutes. She saved two match points and won it on her third match-point opportunity. Earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, Sorribes Tormo beat Pera, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, in three hours and 23 minutes, the second-longest WTA match of the year to date. Next, she will face No. 13 seed Jennifer Brady of the United States.

• Oft-injured Ana Konjuh of Croatia is healthy, again, after four surgeries. The 338th-ranked wild card earned her first main draw victory since 2018 at Brisbane with a 7-6, 7-5 victory over No. 70 Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic. She told the WTA website, “When the time comes, I’m sure I’ll find something else I’m good at. But until then, I want my focus to be 100 percent on tennis. That’s all that makes me happy right now.”

• Two-time Miami semifinalist Andrea Petkovic of Germany, ranked 107th, advanced with a 7-5, 6-1 win over No. 43 Zhang Shuai of China. Next, she will face World No. 4 Sofia Kenin of the United States.

• No. 54 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, a 2018 Miami Open finalist, went the distance to beat 135th-ranked Chinese wild card Wang Xiyu, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1. Next, she will face lucky loser Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who replaced No. 23 seed Alison Riske in the main draw.

• No. 61 Alizé Cornet rallied from a set down and won 12 of the final 15 games of her first round match against past Miami Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. The 61st-ranked Cornet hit 27 winners and converted five of 10 break points against the 35th-ranked Russian, who won Miami back in 2006. Next, Cornet will play No. 9 seed Petra Kvitova.

• No. 86 Alexi Popyrin of Australia made his Miami Open debut a good one by defeating the oldest male in the draw, Spain’s 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez, 6-4, 7-6 (4), in 82 minutes. The 21-year-old, fresh off winning his first ATP Tour title last month at the Singapore Tennis Open will face No. 30 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States in the second round.

This title was a good start to the year, but it means nothing if the rest of the year is bad,” Popyrin said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “The work and the focus continue. I just hope I can continue the form I am in now through to the end of the year.”

• Thirty-seven-year-old Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan, who entered the main draw on a prior ranking, defeated No. 63 Sam Querrey of the United States 6-3, 6-4 in 71 minutes to earn a berth against No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev in the second round. Lu won 79 percent of his first-serve points, broke Querrey twice and saved both break points he faced.

Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, ranked 56th, came from 1-5 down in the final set and defeated No. 66Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 for his first win at the Miami Open. Next, Norrie will face No. 9 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

Pierre Hugues-Herbert of France, a recent finalist in Marseille, won for the fifth time in his last six matches by defeating No. 111 Pedro Souza of Portugal, 6-1, 6-3. Next, the 74th-ranked Herbert will face No. 11 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.

Hugo Gaston of France, ranked 162nd, earned his first Masters 1000 win with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 54 Dominik Koepfer of Germany. Next, Gaston will play No. 21 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy.

• In a match-up of former University of Southern California collegiate stars, Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann defeated No. 82 Steve Johnson of the United States, 7-5, 6-2, in one hour and 25 minutes to advance to the second round. The 108th-ranked Hanfmann hit six aces and broke Johnson’s serve four times. He outpointed the American 65-50. Next, Hanfmann will face No. 14 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia.

Wednesday’s Miami Open results – WTA

Wednesday’s Miami Open results – ATP

News & noteworthy

• No. 25 seed Alison Riske of the United States withdrew with a left foot injury. She was replaced in the main draw by lucky loser Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.

• There are 13 Grand Slam champions in the women’s singles draw, just 1 (Marin Cilic) in the men’s draw.

Past Masters 1000 champions dot the men’s draw

There are seven former ATP Masters 1000 champions in the 96-player draw: Daniil Medvedev (3), Alexander Zverev (3), Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Fabio Fognini, John Isner and Karen Khachanov (each with one). Meanwhile, John Isner (2018) is the only former Miami champion in the draw.

#NextGenATP vibe in Miami draw

This year’s Miami Open men’s draw includes 10 #NextGenATP rising stars. They include a pair of 17-year-olds, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan; four 19-year-olds, Jack Draper of Great Britain, Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, Emilio Nava of the United States and Jannik Sinner of Italy; three 20-year-olds, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Hugo Gaston and Sebastian Korda; and one 21-year-old, Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil.

By the numbers

• The youngest player in the men’s main draw is 17-year-old Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan, who came through qualifying and is making his Miami Open debut and appearing in just his second ATP Tour-level tournament following Singapore earlier this season. The oldest player, 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez, made his 18th main draw appearance and brought a 12-17 lifetime record in 17 previous Miami Open tournaments into his first-round match against Alexei Popyrin Wednesday.

• In the women’s draw, both the oldest and youngest players – 40-year-old Venus Williams and 16-year-old wild card Robin Montgomery, both from the United States, lost their opening-round matches on Tuesday. Williams fell to Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, 6-2, 7-6 (10), and Montgomery lost to Magda Linette of Poland, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0. Both matches were played on the Grandstand show court.