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Comebacks, returns, and new beginnings at the Miami Open

Comebacks, returns, and new beginnings at the Miami Open

It had been a while since Simona Halep, former world no. 1, had stepped foot on a tennis court. Sure, she'd been quietly practicing but yesterday marked her first day back after an 18-month hiatus from official tournament play. She was banned from professional tennis following a positive drug test in October 2022.

She's back. And despite being defeated by Spain’s Paula Badosa 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, she exited the court with a smile. The Miami Open would mark a new beginning for Halep.

After the match, Halep said, “I would rate it as a special day, honestly, considering the period I had. Playing so well, feeling so well on court, feeling so well outside of the court with so many people that are very nice to me and giving me the love, I would say that this day is going to stay very special for me."

With emotions flowing, she added, "Of course, I had many results in the past, big results. But here it's something more than tennis, it's something personal. I really love to see that people are appreciating me beside tennis and beside everything that happened.”

Photo credit: Getty Images via Miami Open presented by Itaú.

She's not the only player returning after an absence from the game. New moms will be out in full-force today returning to the Miami Open. Major champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber will return to Miami after missing last year’s event while on maternity leave.

Osaka, the 2022 runner-up, will play under the lights at 7 pm against Elisabetta Cocciaretto. Osaka gave birth to her daughter, Shai, in July. Kerber, who lost to Osaka in the 2022 second round, opens the day session against fellow Grand Slam tournament winner when she battles Sloane Stephens. Kerber gave birth to her daughter, Liana, last February.

Today also marks the beginning of the men's main draw matches and it's shaping up to be an action-packed day. 

While two-time Miami Open champion Andy Murray may be the leading man playing at the Hard Rock when he faces former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini, a young Florida native will be looking to steal the spotlight. Darwin Blanch, a 16-year-old who grew up in Deerfield Beach, FL, will make his ATP Tour debut when he faces Tomas Machac. In 2023, Blanch reached the semifinals in juniors at both the French Open and Wimbledon.

For more on this 16-year-old wildcard, check out Rick Macci's exclusive analysis provided to Florida Tennis revealing his predictions for Blanch as he kicks off his efforts this week.

Order of Play (Wed., 3/20)

STADIUM start Not Before 12:00 PM
WTA - Sloane Stephens (USA) vs Angelique Kerber (Germany)
ATP - Tomas Machac (Czech Republic) vs [WC] Darwin Blanch (USA)
ATP - Andy Murray (Great Britain) vs [PR] Matteo Berrettini (Italy)
Not Before 7:00 PM – Night Session
WTA - Elisabetta Cocciaretto (Italy) vs Naomi Osaka (Japan)
Not Before 8:30 pm
ATP - Alex Michelsen (USA) vs [Q] Lukas Klein (Slovakia)

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
ATP - Luciano Darderi (Italy) vs [PR] Denis Shapovalov (Canada)
WTA - Shelby Rogers (USA) vs [WC] Linda Fruhvirtova (Czech Republic)
Not Before 2:00 PM
WTA - Donna Vekic (Croatia) vs Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
WTA - [Q] Katie Volynets (USA) vs Sofia Kenin (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP - Marcos Giron (USA) vs Dominik Koepfer (Germany)

BUTCH BUCHHOLZ start 11:00 am
WTA - Magdalena Frech (Poland) vs Camila Giorgi (Italy)
WTA - [LL] Bernarda Pera (USA) vs Danielle Collins (USA)
WTA - [Q] Nadia Podoroska (Argentina) vs Ashlyn Krueger (USA)
ATP - [WC] Martin Damm (USA) vs Zhizhen Zhang (China)
ATP - Arthur Fils (France) vs Matteo Arnaldi (Italy)

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
WTA - Elina Avanesyan vs [WC] Erika Andreeva
ATP - Jack Draper (Great Britain) vs Taro Daniel (Japan)
ATP - Max Purcell (Australia) vs Marton Fucsovics (Hungary)
ATP - Miomir Kecmanovic (Serbia) vs [WC] Juncheng Shang (China)
WTA - [Q] Storm Hunter (Australia) vs Martina Trevisan (Italy)

COURT 7 start 11:00 am
WTA - Varvara Gracheva (France) vs [Q] Maria Timofeeva
WTA - [Q] Claire Liu (USA) vs Petra Martic (Croatia)
WTA - Sara Sorribes Tormo (Spain) vs Arantxa Rus (Netherlands)

COURT 5 start 11:00 am
ATP - Rinky Hijikata (Australia) vs Botic van de Zandschulp (Netherlands)
Not Before 12:30 pm
ATP - [LL] Yoshihito Nishioka (Japan) vs Flavio Cobolli (Italy)
ATP - [Q] Thiago Seyboth Wild (Brazil) vs Nuno Borges (Portugal)

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
ATP - Pavel Kotov vs Luca Van Assche (France)

Not Before 12:30 pm
ATP - Chris O'Connell (Australia) vs [Q] Vit Kopriva (Czech Republic)
ATP - Pedro Cachin (Argentina) vs [Q] Andrea Vavassori (Italy)

COURT 3 start 11:00 am
WTA - Marie Bouzkova (Czech Republic) vs Lin Zhu (China)
WTA - Tatjana Maria (Germany) vs [Q] Emiliana Arango (Colombia)
WTA - Viktoriya Tomova (Bulgaria) vs [LL] Tamara Korpatsch (Germany)


Written by Florida Tennis' Editor and Publisher Matt Pressman. Source: Miami Open presented by ItaúPhoto credit (top photo): Getty Images via Miami Open presented by Itaú. 

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