Sinner Is A Winner In Miami, On To The Final Now

Jannik Sinner (photo: courtesy of ATP Tour video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, April 3, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Wise beyond his years, Italy’s 19-year-old Jannik Sinner fought brilliantly over the course of two hours and 29 minutes and saved some of his best tennis for the end of his Friday afternoon semifinal against Roberto Bautista Agut at the Miami Open presented by Itaú.

With Sinner’s 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over the 32-year-old Spaniard, he became the fourth teenager in the tournament’s 36-year history to reach the final and the first since Novak Djokovic in 2007. Sinner is into his first ATP Masters 1000 final in just his third ATP Masters 1000 draw. It’s also his second win over Bautista Agut in less than a month, following his victory at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last month.

“It feels unbelievable,” Sinner said during his on-court interview following his victory against Bautista Agut. “It’s always tough to play against Roberto. Two weeks ago, we played in Dubai, we had a tough one there. Now, a tough one here. I’m very happy about reaching the final here in Miami.”

Bautista Agut, who finished with 13 winners and 39 unforced errors, gave props to Sinner during his post-match virtual press conference. “Well, of course he’s good, no? Both matches have the feeling I could won on both times but finally I didn’t, no? I think he has something special in tough moments,” he said.

“Today I had chances on the second set, chances on the third set, but, well, he’s a great player, great competitor, and I will try to beat him the next time.”

On Friday, Sinner hit 38 winners overall – including 19 on his forehand side – which more than offset his 53 unforced errors. However, arguably the grandest of all his winners was a cross-court backhand winner on his first match-point opportunity that capped a 12-shot rally and lifted Sinner into Sunday afternoon’s title match against No. 26 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who upset No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, 6-3, 6-4.

The Miami Open represents the second ATP Tour final of the year for the 6-foot-2 Sinner, who enjoyed a title run at the Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne in February. He’s also the first Italian to reach the Miami Open final.

“Here I felt well from the beginning of the week on court,” Sinner said during his virtual media press conference. “You know, I think obviously it’s a great result here, but, you know, first I have one more match in front of me. The other thing is that it doesn’t mean anything. I mean, obviously it’s very nice to be part of this final, to play a final, to play for a win, but, you know, it’s all about – I just try to improve every day.”

Hurkacz takes away Rublev’s rhythm

In the second semifinal Friday, Hurkacz did much of his damage from the baseline. He fired 25 winners and broke Rublev three times during his one hour and 28-minute victory that lifted him into Sunday’s final against Sinner, the biggest final of his career.

During his on-court interview following the triumph, Hurkacz said: “It means a lot especially after winning a title at the beginning of the year (Delray Beach Open), I had a couple of rough matches. So, I’m so happy that I came over and I was still trying to improve my game and trying to be a better play. This is really huge for me.”

Later, during his virtual press conference, Hurkacz was asked what would be the key to beating Sinner. He said: “Yeah, obviously Jannik, he hits the ball very hard from both of the sides. Have to try to stay aggressive and, yeah, like try to play my best tennis.”

Hurkacz, who is No. 3 on the ATP Tour with 141 aces, struck eight against Rublev to go with a 75 percent success rate in winning points on his first serve. He saved four of five break points while breaking Rublev three times in eight opportunities. Hurkacz outpointed his opponent 72-60 to move into Sunday afternoon’s 1 p.m. final. Like Sinner, he will be going after his first ATP Masters 1000 crown.

“Yeah, I think now I’m in the moment,” Hurkacz said. “I’m just trying obviously super happy to be where I am now, but now we try to prepare as best as we can with CB for that final match on Sunday.”

Late night tennis with Bianca and Maria

With a berth in the Miami Open women’s final at stake late Thursday evening, No. 8 seed Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 Maria Sakkari, took court just before 11 p.m. Their arrival had been pushed back due to a series of rain delays earlier in the Andrey RublevSebastian Korda men’s quarterfinal match.

While Andreescu jumped ahead early in the first set, leading 4-2 after just 24 minutes, one sensed that this one was going to last a while and that Sakkari wasn’t going to give in easily. This matchup was been determined by who could manage their mental fatigue the best, who had the most mental stamina and fortitude by the end.

After two hours and 42 minutes, it was Andreescu who prevailed 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (4) and it advanced the Canadian 20-year-old to her first final since winning the 2019 US Open.

Andreescu, who has gone the distance in each of her last four matches, will face World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in Saturday afternoon’s 1 p.m. final at the Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami Gardens. It will be their first meeting. Barty has won five straight against Top 20 opponents.

By the time Andreescu arrived shortly before 3 a.m. Friday to do her virtual media press conference, she was wound up but just as candid and expressive as she has been in each of her previous victories in Miami. Among the highlights:

“I have a lot of experience in these tough three-setters and digging through and finding a way. Sometimes, I literally feel like I’m an octopus out there running side to side, I feel like I have eight legs. It’s insane. Sometimes, I don’t even know how I get to some shots. But it’s that fighting spirit I have always had in me, never giving up.

“Though experience, you learn to find ways to deal with circumstances like this. It’s really showing. Me playing with my back against the wall really brings out my best tennis.”

Aoyama/Shibahara aiming for third doubles title in 2021

The Miami Open women’s doubles final will be decided on Sunday afternoon by the fifth and eighth seeds. On Friday, the title match lineups were decided as both semifinal matches went to match tie breaks to decide the outcome.

First, No. 5 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, both from Japan, defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States and Iga Swiatek of Poland, 3-6, 7-6, 10-2, for their 15th win of the season.

Later, No. 8 seeds Hayley Carter of the United States and Luisa Stefani from Brazil took out Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico, 2-6, 6-3, 10-8.

Aoyama and Shibahara will be going for their third doubles title of 2021 following triumphs in Abu Dhabi and at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, and it will be their third meeting against Carter and Stefani this season. It’s also the third final this year for Carter and Stefani.

What they’re saying

Despite losing his Thursday evening rain-interrupted quarterfinal to World No. 8 Andrey Rublev, Sebastian Korda held court with the virtual media about an hour after the match ended. The 20-year-old #NextGenATP American rising star was upbeat. Throughout his Miami Open fortnight run, Korda kept his emotions in check. It’s something which he gives props to his mother, Regina Rajchrtova, who was a former World No. 26 on the WTA tour.

“I think ever since I was a kid, my mom was really big into kind of having a poker face on court and not showing any negative emotions,” Korda explained. “Obviously, positive emotions are always great, but I think my mom was really big on that. I have her to thank for that, because I think it’s a really [a] big strength for me that the opponent doesn’t really know what’s happening on the other side of the court. I try to use it to my favor.”

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Roberto Bautista Agut on what, if anything, he would have liked to have done differently against Jannik Sinner: “Well, I think I could play better tennis today, no? I fought a lot, I run well, and I try to compete as good as I could, but I didn’t play my best game today, no? I don’t know why.

“It was because of the wind, because of the situation? Was not my best match, but I tried to compete with the things I had on the court today. I think I could have a little bit something more, no?

“I had a lot of chances on the second set and also on the third set, and today finally I lost 6-4 in the third and I cannot say nothing else.”