Jiri Lehecka wasted little time settling in to his maiden Miami Open presented by Itau campaign on Thursday morning, when the big-hitting Czech eased to a 6-3, 6-4 first-round victory against Federico Coria.
The 21-year-old Lehecka surged to an early 3-0 lead against Coria on Court 1 at Hard Rock Stadium, where he is competing in an ATP Masters 1000 main draw for just the third time. That set the tone for the pair’s first ATP Head2Head encounter, as Lehecka’s powerful groundstrokes and confidence to move forward whenever possible helped him to a comfortable 63-minute victory.
“The conditions suit me much better than in Indian Wells,” Lehecka later told ATPTour.com. “The surface is a bit faster and the balls are flying more. Today’s match was tough because it was my first match in Miami. I managed it well.
“I was serving pretty good. I knew that Federico improved a lot on hard courts, which meant I tried to prepare a bit better for our match, and I’m super happy that I won.”
The World No. 44 Lehecka fired 23 winners and won 75 per cent (9/12) of points at the net en route to his win. Cordoba finalist Coria battled well to restrict his opponent to a single break of serve in each set, but the Argentine was unable to conjure any break points of his own as he fell short in his bid to reach the second round in Miami for the first time.
After he reached the Australian Open quarter-finals in January and then notched his first Masters 1000 main-draw win in Indian Wells two weeks ago, Lehecka’s strong Miami debut represents another step forward in a breakout season for the 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up. After downing Coria for his 13th tour-level win of the season, the Czech has now equalled his tally of victories for the entire 2022 season.
Lehecka will next try to replicate his triumphant opening display in a second-round clash against 18th seed Lorenzo Musetti. The pair has met once before on Tour, with Lehecka a three-set winner in the Rotterdam quarter-finals in February 2022.
7.0 Tour Avg. Backhand #ShotQuality .
He plays Musetti in the next round.… pic.twitter.com/TS83HqPOLp
— Tennis Insights (@tennis_insights) March 23, 2023
Unlike Lehecka, Shang Juncheng could not turn a fast start into victory on Court 1. Adrian Mannarino outlasted the 18-year-old Chinese wild card for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 win, but Shang will nonetheless have plenty of positives to take from his third Masters 1000 main-draw appearance.
The World No. 181 Shang raced to the first set, but the vastly more experienced Mannarino did not panic and went on to seal a hard-earned one-hour, 56-minute triumph in which he struck 28 winners to Shang’s 13. Mannarino takes on another rising star in the second round — 32nd seed and home favourite Ben Shelton.
In other early action on Thursday, Cristian Garin maintained his excellent Sunshine Double form to down home favourite Marcos Giron 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on the Stadium court. The Chilean former World No. 17 Garin, who reached the fourth round as a qualifier in Indian Wells, is now into the second round as a qualifier in Miami after saving seven of nine break points he faced to beat the No. 71-ranked Giron.
Aleksandar Kovacevic ensured the home fans had a positive result to celebrate by defeating Jaume Munar 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-1. Victory on his main-draw debut in Miami earned the 24-year-old lucky loser a second-round meeting with 25th seed Francisco Cerundolo.
Quentin Halys beat Pedro Martinez 6-2, 7-6(4) to advance to face Alex de Minaur, while fourth seed Daniil Medvedev’s opening opponent in Florida will be Roberto Carballes Baena. The Spaniard led Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-0, 3-0 when the latter was forced to retire.