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Miami Open: Niculescu stuns Muguruza, Halep beats Townsend to reach third round

Qualifier Monica Niculescu needed nearly three hours to overcome former World No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza and advance to the third round of the 2019 Miami Open.

Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu pulled off an epic upset at the Miami Open on Friday, ousting No.20 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, 7-6(0), 4-6, 6-2, wtatennis.com informs.

“I love it here, I like the new stadium, I like all the facilities that we have, so I’m so happy that we’re here,” Niculescu told the media, after her win. “Many Romanians [in the crowd], I had so much support and every ball they were cheering for me. I liked that I moved well, and I saw the court very good, and I could do amazing shots, so it was pretty good.”

Two-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1 Muguruza had won their only previous match handily: a 6-1, 6-1 dismantling at Linz in 2016. But it was World No.138 Niculescu who held firm to pull through this three-set tilt and claim a Top 20 win after a grueling two hours and 54 minutes of play.

“I knew I played pretty good in qualies, and also the first match in main draw had great tennis, but it’s tough to play Garbiñe,” Niculescu stated. “I played her before in Linz and I didn’t do too good.

“I’m happy that I came strong in the third, and I ran a lot today!”

Niculescu will meet another former World No.1 in the third round: No.13 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 6-4, 6-4 on Friday. Wozniacki has won all nine of their previous meetings.

In another match, No.2 seed Simona Halep booked her spot in the third round of the Miami Open in just over an hour on Friday. The Romanian defeated American qualifier Taylor Townsend with the loss of the just four games, 6-1, 6-3, in the second round.

“I think this was my best match so far. I feel more confident. I feel the game here. I think today I just liked how she played against me. The atmosphere was good, the weather,” Halep, who improved her head-to-head against Townsend to 3-0, said.

“I have only good thoughts about this match. It was really good.”

The American largely struggled on serve over the course of 63 minutes, as she hit five double faults and won just over 40 percent of the points played in the games in which she was at the line.

The decisive break for the Romanian came in the sixth game, as the 22-year-old left-hander double faulted twice to hand the two-game cushion back to the No.2 seed, and Halep lost just one point in her last two service games to get over the finish line.

Halep will face lucky loser Polona Hercog up next. Hercog made good on her second chance, defeating Japanese qualifier Misaki Doi in straight sets, 7-6(4), 6-4.

Bianca Andreescu defeats Sofia Kenin

Indian Wells champion, Canadian of Romanian origin, Bianca Andreescu, avenged her most recent loss at the Miami Open on Friday, dispatching No.32 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States, 6-3, 6-3, to advance to the third round.

“I try not to overthink about what happened last week,” Andreescu said, during her post-match press conference. “I know I just won a really big tournament, now I’m here in Miami,” wtatennis.com informs.

“The only pressure I think is the pressure I put on myself. If I go into every match playing my best – not playing my best but trying my best, because you can’t play your best every match – if you try [your] best every match, give 100 percent, that’s all that matters to me.”

About Valeriu Lazar