Medvedev Smiles Through Pain, Beats Popyrin

Daniil Medvedev (photo: courtesy of Miami Open presented by Itaú video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 29, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev is the top men’s seed this year at the Miami Open presented Itaú in lieu of No. 1 Novak Djokovic‘s desire to be home with family and to ready himself for the spring European clay season and beyond. It’s put the 25-year-old Moscow native in the spotlight, such as being given Sunday afternoon’s featured match slot on the Grandstand court against the young (21) and inspired Alexei Popyrin of Australia, who nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament – almost.

The Medvedev-Popyrin third-round match lasted more than two-and-a-half hours and included two tie breaks – and, thanks to cramping, Medvedev required lots of electrolytes before he finally prevailed over Popyrin, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (7), 6-4.

Medvedev had three match points and was serving for the match in the second set, but was unable to put the pesky Popyrin away.

“It’s probably one of the sweetest victories in my career, because I was cramping like hell in the third set,” Medvedev said during his on-court interview after the end of the match. “It’s one thing when you’re cramping when you’re [ahead in the score], but I started cramping before. It was tough to think about the win in these conditions.

“At the same time, I should have won in two sets and we would not be talking about cramping. But anyway, we have the result on the board and I’m happy that I managed to go through all the difficulties of this definitely crazy match.”​

Later, during his virtual press conference, Medvedev added:

“It was really painful. The thing about standing up is that few moments during rallies I felt like my legs were not following me anymore.The only thing I was thinking about is not to fall down, because if you fall down, I don’t think I would be able to get up. We saw it few times, you know, on the tennis court.

“So, there were some moments where I just wanted, you know, to lay down and say, ‘Okay, it’s over.’ I knew that that’s the thing I couldn’t accept myself to do.

“Yeah, I was in big pain. The biggest pain was when I actually got a 4-3 break up, and after the first point I don’t know what happened, but I, like, I probably didn’t feel it that often in my life, maybe two or three times before, and my serve, which was actually I would say maybe even terrible during the match, saved me then. So, thanks a lot to my serve.”

Medvedev fired 10 aces, won 92 percent (45 of 49) of his first-serve points, was broken just once and outpointed Popyrin 121-106.

Next, Medvedev will face unseeded Frances Tiafoe of the United States who triumphed over No. 16 seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, coming back to win 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, in two hours, in back of six aces and 25 winners.

Other Sunday evening winners:

Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, who rallied to beat Sweden’s Mikael Ymer, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5. At 6-5 in the final set, Ruusuvuori saved three break points and let a match point slip away. An overhead smash winner set up match point number two, and this time Ruusuvuori made it stand. Both he and Ymer shared a warm embrace at the net following their two hour and 18-minute spirited battle.

“I learned you have to be aggressive [to beat Mikael]. It was a matter of finding the right balance,” Ruusuvuori said during his virtual press conference.

Next, Ruusuvuori will face No. 21 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy, who outlasted No. 14 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, in two hours and 50 minutes.

“Here the conditions are tough to play, but in the end it’s for both of us,” Sinner said during his post-match virtual press conference. “It’s not only for me, it’s not only for him. It’s for both of us. For both it’s windy, for both it’s sunny and for both it’s hot on court. Today it was very hot and I struggled a little bit more in the beginning. I just tried to stay there every point even if I lost the first.”

• No. 22 seed Taylor Fritz defeated Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, and next will face No. 32 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, who beat unseeded James Duckworth of Australia, 6-4, 6-4.

Muguruza uses fighting spirit to get 20th victory

On a Sunday filled with first-name WTA star power at Hard Rock Stadium – think Naomi (Osaka, who received a walkover), Bianca (Andreescu) and Sofia ( Kenin) – No. 12 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, was banished to Butch Buchoholz court to play her third-round match against Russian wild card Anna Kalinskaya.

The court Muguruza played on is named after the tournament’s co-founder, which is the third-largest of the three show courts being used for this year’s tournament. No matter the slight, Muguruza relied upon her mental toughness to earn her tour-leading 20th victory of the season, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 over Kalinskaya.

Muguruza recovered from an 0-3 final-set deficit to win after being on court for two hours and 14 minutes. Afterward, she credited her fighting spirit for getting her through a tough set.

“I brought my fighting spirit and I could match the level of fighting against Anna, and very happy to go through these tough matches,” said Muguruza during her virtual press conference. “Doesn’t matter if. You play pretty or play ugly, but you stay strong and you go through these rounds. That gives me an opportunity to feel better and to have another chance.”

Muguruza leads the WTA in match wins and has already reached three finals this season and won one title, two weeks ago in Dubai.

Other Sunday evening winners:

• No. 27 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who upset No. 4 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Jabeur rallied from 1-3 down in the final set, hit 40 winners and 11 aces to garner her third career Top 5 win. She advanced to play unseeded Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, who earlier in the day took out No. 21 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.

“It was an amazing match today,” Jabeur said, quoted by the WTA website. “Honestly, I tried to play my game and play to take my revenge because I’ve been losing a lot against Sofia.”

• No. 8 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada, who endured two tie breaks and two hours and 45 minutes on the Grandstand court to defeat No. 28 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (2), 6-4, to move into the fourth round against Muguruza.

When she was asked during her virtual press conference what got her through her match against Anisomova, Andreescu told Tennis TourTalk in a matter-of-fact tone of voice punctuated by a big smile at the end: “Wanting to win the tournament. That’s for one. Proving to myself I can get through tough matches like I did before in the past. I did and I’m super happy about that.”

Sunday’s Miami Open results – WTA

Sunday’s Miami Open results – ATP

Monday’s Miami Open order of play

What they’re saying

Garbiñe Muguruza was asked what she remembered about receiving a wild card to play in the Miami Open back in 2012, when the tournament was called the Sony Ericsson Open and played at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, about 21.5 miles to the south. She reached the fourth round before losing to Agnieszka Radwanska:

“This is totally my breakthrough tournament almost 10 years ago when they, yeah, gave me a wildcard. I actually played well. I beat two top 10 players (Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Pennetta).

“You know, that was a great sign for me that I had, you know, the level and I just had to learn many more things and become, you know, a better player.

“But that proved me that I had tennis in my hand. It was very exciting when you’re coming and you’re young and you have this opportunity to play against top players and just to challenge yourself, to have a feel of how far am I, am I close, what do I have to learn, what do I have to improve? Yeah, I have very good memories.”

Alexei Popyrin, who lost a three-set battle to top seed and World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, on the positive takeaways from Miami:

“That I battled the World No. 2 to cramps and, you know, he served it out really well and all that. All that just proves from when I last played him in, I think it was last year Aussie Open, he wiped me off the court completely. Yeah, and I think now my level shows battle in the first set, had opportunities in the first set. Had opportunities in the second set. Got the opportunities in the second set. Third set it could go either way. You know, he played well and then served it out really well.

“I think I will take positives from this match knowing that I’m at the level of a guy who is World No. 2. Yeah, you know, I haven’t had many chances to play guys who are up there ranked as high as him, so definitely take a lot of positives from this match.”

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Elise Mertens on what she did to reset herself after losing the middle set 6-0 in order to be able to pull out a 6-2, 0-6, 6-2 victory over No. 22 Anett Kontaveit to advance to Monday’s fourth round against World No. 2 and second seed Naomi Osaka:

“You know, it just didn’t work out in the second set. I just tried to refresh. I took that heat break, so that kind of held. I put my ice towel there.

“And, you know, there is another set that has to be played, and I just tried to give much more energy. Also tried to, you know, put more balls in the court in general because that was kind of necessary.

“But I think mentally I was prepared for a battle, even though it was maybe not my best day. But it’s kind of the little change that I made during the third set that got me the win, and that’s how I’m going to look at it positively.”

Garbiñe Muguruza on the importance of being mentally tough and how she’s gone about acquiring that kind of knowledge:

“I mean, this is something that you have to get it through matches and through experience. I would say knowing to stay strong in the key moments.

“Today we had a lot. It was a very physical match, was a long match and a lot of ups and downs. Tennis-wise, it was tough conditions with windy, so it was a lot about staying strong, staying strong in important moments.

“Especially at the end, I had many match points and I didn’t convert them, but they are still match points. So, I have to stay calm and say, ‘Hey, I might not have won but I’m still 5-4 serving, right?’ So, why should I be sad? I will try to get the next opportunity. These are the key moments, and with the experience you learn a little bit more how to handle them.”

Happy 36th Birthday Stan Wawrinka