Tennis-Halep to face Badosa in Miami opener, Swiatek seeks Sunshine Double

By Thomson Reuters Mar 18, 2024 | 11:47 AM

(Reuters) – Simona Halep will make her competitive return this week after winning an appeal over a doping suspension when she takes the court at the Miami Open where Indian Wells champion Iga Swiatek will look to pull off the Sunshine Double.

Halep, who accepted a wild card into the Miami Open after her four-year ban was cut to nine months by the top court for global sport, will face Paula Badosa on Tuesday with the winner getting world number two Aryna Sabalenka in the second round.

For Halep, the clash against world number 80 Badosa of Spain will mark her first match since the 2022 U.S. Open where she was upset in the first round by Ukrainian qualifier Daria Snigur.

Halep, a former Wimbledon and French Open champion, was suspended in October 2022 after testing positive for roxadustat – a banned drug that stimulates the production of red blood cells – at that year’s U.S. Open. Halep vigorously denied the charges against her.

The Romanian former world number one owns a 2-0 record in head-to-head meetings with Badosa, having never lost more than three games in a set.

Top seed Swiatek missed her Miami Open title defence last year due to injury but returns in stellar form and fresh off a dominant 6-4 6-0 win over ninth seed Maria Sakkari in the Indian Wells final.

Now Swiatek will set her sights on capturing the Indian Wells and Miami Open titles back-to-back, a feat known as the Sunshine Double given the tournaments’ respective locations in California and Florida, for a second time.

Should Swiatek, who will face either Italy’s Camila Giorgi or fellow Pole Magdalena Frech in the second round, claim the Miami title she would join Steffi Graff (1994, 1996) as the only women to complete the Sunshine Double twice.

Florida resident Coco Gauff, who reached the Indian Wells semi-finals, will enjoy plenty of crowd support as she returns to Miami for the first time since her triumph at last year’s U.S. Open.

On the men’s side, Carlos Alcaraz will also chase the final piece of the Sunshine Double after a successful title defence at Indian Wells where he beat reigning Miami Open champion Daniil Medvedev in a rematch of the 2023 California final.

While the Miami men’s draw is stacked, one notable absence will be world number one and six-times champion Novak Djokovic, who expressed a desire to limit the number of events he plays at this stage of his decorated career.

The 36-year-old Djokovic is still without a trophy this year having represented Serbia at the United Cup before reaching the Australian Open semi-finals and suffering a shock third round exit at Indian Wells.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)