Photo Mauricio Paiz/Tennis Canada
by Jonathan Yue
Canadian tennis fans suffered from déjà-vu on Thursday at the Miami Open, as back-to-back matches on Stadium Court saw a Canadian eliminated by a seeded American in the second round of the WTA 1000 event.
First, Katherine Sebov, who had come through qualifying for the first time to reach at WTA 1000 main draw and then picked up her first win at that level in round one, saw her Miami Open come to a close as she fell to top-ranked American Jessica Pegula.
Next out on court was Rebecca Marino, who was ground into submission by sixth-seeded Coco Gauff.
Although riding the momentum and displaying moments of strong play following her round one win, Sebov was handed a straight-set loss, 6-3, 6-1 to the world no. 3 seed.
In a hard-fought match under the Miami sun, Sebov showed the world she can play her game against the best, including the top-ranked American on the WTA tour, the highest-ranked opponent Sebov’s faced in her career.
Getting right to work early in the match, both players showcased their strengths, with Pegula demonstrating her strong serve and groundstrokes, breaking Sebov’s serve in the first service game. Sebov did not let that faze her, fighting back as she got more comfortable. Gaining energy and confidence in her game with her consistent backhand, strong net points, and smart serves, the Toronto native capitalized on triple break point to equal the first set at 2-2 apiece.
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Sebov continued to keep it close, earning a double break-point opportunity after falling behind 4-3 and showing confidence and aggression at the net during the rest of the set. Pegula, in her first match at the Miami moment, regained control of the set, closing out the first set in 36 minutes.
In the second set, the two players continued to fight for each point. After falling behind 3-0, Sebov stepped up on her own serve and capitalized with her backhand to get on the board. Pegula proved why she’s one of the best in the world this season, cruising to take the second set by a score of 6-1 and a straight-set victory to move onto the round of 32.
Despite being eliminated in the second round of the tournament, Sebov will rise up in the WTA rankings, improving on her already current career-high ranking of 172. Having just made her major debut this past January, Sebov’s ranking and confidence on the tour is projected to rise after showing strong play early on in the 2023 season.
Marino suffers similar fate
by Pete Borkowski
Rebecca Marino followed her countrywoman out onto Stadium Court hoping for a different result against another seeded American, No. 6 Coco Gauff. The Canadian gave the American a stiff challenge, but ultimately it was Gauff who found the solutions to claim a straight-set win.
Reaching the second round in Miami was only the third time in Marino’s career where the Canadian got out of the first round of a WTA 1000 event.
Marino pushed the young American a tough time for much of the match, scoring multiple breaks but struggling to string together strong service games. A few too many opportunities slipped away from the Canadian as she fell 6-4, 6-3.
Defence ultimately won the day between the big-hitting Canadian and the speedy American, as Marino committed more than twice as many unforced errors 17 to 8. Marino did win the winner battle 18 to 12, but the serve did not do enough damage as she was out-aced 6-3, won just 50 per cent of service points and was broken five times.
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Gauff and Marino provide a huge stylistic contrast and it was the American’s strong defence that got the better of the early exchanges. However, it was Marino’s biggest weapon, her serve, that let her down in the fourth game as she double-faulted to surrender an early break.
Neither woman was playing their cleanest tennis in the first set and a sloppy game from Gauff allowed the Canadian to get the break back. However, as Marino served to stay in the set at 4-5, she was forced into an error to go down 15-40 and then netted a backhand on the second break point to drop the opening set.
A topsy-turvy second set saw both women have chances to seize control. First it was Gauff holding a break point for a 2-0 lead, but netting a forehand. Marino quickly took advantage by breaking in the next game to take a lead of her own.
Every time Marino seemed to be building momentum, Gauff extinguished the hope. The American coaxed errors out of the Canadian in the following game to get the break right back. When Marino took advantage of some seconds serve to re-establish the break lead, Gauff immediately broke back again to level at 3-3.
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The errors started to pile up for Marino and, along with the failure to consolidate a break twice, a backhand into the net set up Gauff to serve out the match at 5-3. Marino had a chance to deny her opponent when she held a break point at 30-40, but missed three consecutive returns to exit the tournament.
Two Canadian women are still alive in singles in Miami, but also face Top 10-seeded opponents in the second round on Friday. Bianca Andreescu will battle No. 7 Maria Sakkari, while Leylah Annie Fernandez meets No. 9 Belinda Bencic.