Harris Makes Madrid Debut A Memorable One

Lloyd Harris (photo: @MutuaMadridOpen/Twitter)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 3, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

In a season filled with challenges, South African Lloyd Harris enjoys good ones, whether reaching a tournament final after qualifying for the main draw or facing Top 20 opponents – the more arduous path to winning a tennis match the better.

On Monday, in the men’s first round of the Mutua Madrid Open, the 54th-ranked Harris made his debut in the Spanish capital city a memorable one. The manner in which he won was impressive if not improbable. After letting three match points slip away while leading 5-2 in the third set against No. 13 seed Grigor Dimitrov, Harris recovered nicely – after he was subsequently broken – and won on his sixth match-point opportunity during a third-set tie break and advanced with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) victory that lasted two hours and 31 minutes on Manolo Santana Stadium.

Harris, 24, who kept his perfect record (4-0) this season against Top 20 opponents (the other wins were against Dominic Thiem and Denis Shapovalov, both in Dubai, and Stan Wawrinka in Doha), won four straight points to go from 2-3 down to 6-3 up in the tie break. On the sixth match point, Harris finally won when Dimitrov netted the 12th shot of the final rally.

Harris, who hit 12 aces and 34 winners, won the majority of his points – 68 of 94 – in rallies that were five shots or less. The victory improved his season win-loss record to 10-6, which earlier including a run to the Dubai final after earning a main-draw berth through qualifying. Pretty impressive for someone who started the season ranked 97th. Harris described his win against Dimitrov in their first meeting this way: “It was a big up and down match, [I led by] a break, then [I was] up in the third, too. I got a little bit nervous at the end, but I’m happy to close it out. I started to dictate again at the end.”

Next, Harris, who is 10th on tour with 125 aces, will face Alex de Minaur of Australia, a winner in his first-round match on Sunday. “He is a very tough opponent and he doesn’t give you much,” Harris said, during a post-match interview. “We had an epic match in the past.” The match Harris was referring took place on a hard court in Tokyo in September 2019, in which the South African prevailed 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (8) after saving two match points in the third set.

Three-time champion Kvitova reaches sixth Madrid quarterfinal

Three-time Madrid champion (2011, 2015, 2018) Petra Kvitova won her 14th match of the season in her 20th appearance with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No. 28 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who was looking to garner her 23th win of the season.

Instead, it was the ninth-seeded Czech star, who in two hours and a minute won 81 percent of her first serves (43 of 53) and was broken just once during the third-round contest played on Manolo Santana Stadium. In their first meeting, the World No. 12 Kvitova broke Kudermetova early in the final set and saved two break points to hold for a 4-2 advantage. She let out a big scream after holding her serve.

“That game was very important for me, for sure,” Kvitova told Tennis TourTalk during her virtual press conference following her victory. “It wasn’t easy [to hold serve]. That’s why I showed my emotions.”

Then, serving for the match at 5-4, she fired her seventh ace on match point to win and advance to the quarterfinal round. Kvitova hit 29 winners to 34 unforced errors and broke Kudermetova twice in seven tries. She outpointed her opponent 94-81 to win her 32nd career match in Madrid. It also advanced Kvitova to the quarterfinal round against  World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty.

Barty mastered World No. 17 and 14th seed Iga Swiatek in a battle of the two most recent Roland Garros champions, 7-5, 6-4, in one hour and 41 minutes. It was Barty’s 14th straight victory on red clay and it broke a nine-match clay winning streak (and 18 straight sets won on clay) by Swiatek going back to the start of last year’s French Open.

The affable Barty from Australia hit six aces and 20 winners, won 79 percent (34 of 43) of her first-serve points and saved six of seven break points she faced against the 19-year-old from Poland in the their first meeting. Barty outpointed Swiatek 73-63 to move in the quarterfinal round.

“It was a very tough match and I expected nothing less,” Barty said during her on-court interview after the victory. “It was a lot of fun out here tonight against Iga. She’s a great player, a great champion and I’m sure it’s the first of many, many matches for us.”

Improving on clay, Evans continues dominance over Chardy

No. 26 Dan Evans gutted out a quality three-set victory over Jeremy Chardy, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (7), 6-2, that lasted two hours and 46 minutes, was entertaining, and covered 234 points. It was the British No. 1 Evans’ third win this season against the Frenchman Chardy and improved his record on clay in 2021 to 5-3 after coming into the season with a 4-12 career record on clay.

At the conclusion, Evans finished with a second-serve ace – his 13th – and he was ahead on points 125-109, which included hitting 35 winners against just 16 unforced errors. Meanwhile, Chardy posted 46 winners but committed 42 unforced errors. Next, Evans will face either No. 12 seed Hubert Hurkacz or John Millman.

“You know, I thought I did pretty good,” Evans said during an on-court interview after the match. “It was a pretty stressful match; he was playing pretty good. I was not hanging in but not really dictating the play. It was different having fans here, it was amazing. It really felt like the Tour was back. It was a great atmosphere. I think that’s why I feel it a bit. I’m fired up. I’m happy to be through the first round.”

Monday’s Mutua Madrid Open results

Tuedsay’s Mutua Madrid Open order of play

Around the Caja Mágica


• Making his Madrid debut, 17-year-old #NextGenATP rising Spanish star Carlos Alcaraz hit 24 winners to 17 unforced errors and easily beat No. 34 Adrian Mannarino of France, 6-4, 6-0, in 71 minutes on Manolo Santana Stadium. The 120th-ranked Alvarez from Murcia, who is the youngest player in the men’s draw to win a match in Madrid, is making good on his wild card entry. He was sharp throughout in allowing Mannarino to hit just four winners while the Frenchman committed 20 unforced errors.

“For me, it’s amazing to play in front of a crowd, especially to play here in Spain,” Alcaraz told Tennis TourTalk during his virtual press conference. “I’ve come here to this tournament since I was young. It’s really special to play here with a crowd. I’m really happy.”

Alcaraz’s victory, his seventh in 14 ATP Tour main draw matches, served as an early birthday present to himself. That’s because the affable Spaniard turns 18 on Wednesday and will face World No. 2 and top seed Rafael Nadal in the second round. Nadal is a five-time Madrid champion and the two have practiced together, before the Australian Open earlier this year in Melbourne.

• In his Madrid debut, No. 27 Aslan Karatsev of Russia defeated No. 32 Ugo Humbert from France, 7-5, 6-4, by striking 24 winners during his one hour and 31-minute victory. After coming into the season with a 3-10 ATP Tour-level record, Karatsev has improved to 18-5, which includes winning a title in Dubai and reaching the final at Belgrade two weeks ago. Next, Karatsev will face No. 7 seed Diego Schwartzman.

• No. 28 Fabio Fognini of Italy hit 27 winners to offset 51 unforced errors and beat 141st-ranked Spanish qualifier Carlos Taberner, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3, in two hours and 15 minutes. Next, Fognini will play fellow Italian and No. 8 seed Matteo Berrettini for the second time.

• No. 39 John Isner of the United States fired 28 aces and was not broken in his 6-4, 7-6 (6) win over Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic. Isner won 85 percent of his first serves in his first appearance since the Miami Open and first tournament he’s played ranked outside the Top 30 since the 2011 Citi Open in Washington, D.C., when he was ranked 35th. Next, he will face either No. 9 seed Roberto Bautista Agut or qualifier Marco Cecchinato.

• No. 53 Dominik Koepfer of Germany, who entered Madrid with a career-best ranking – which places his as the German No. 3 behind Alexander Zverev and Jan-Lennard Struff – improved his tour-level win-loss record against No. 46 Reilly Opelka of the United States to 2-0 following his 6-4, 6-4 victory. Koepfer withstood 14 aces and 20 winners by Opelka during their 76-minute match on Stadium 3 by hitting 12 winners to just 11 unforced errors. He outpointed the American 62-48 to move into the second round against No. 16 seed Cristian Garin of Chile, who needed three match points to beat 71st-ranked Spanish wild card Fernando Verdasco, 6-1, 6-4, in one hour and 27 minutes. Garin saved all eight break points he faced against Verdasco and outpointed his opponent 73-51.

• American Marcos Giron won the longest match of the day – three hours and 26 minutes – against Pablo Andújar of Spain, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (4), 7-5. Giron hit 62 winners and withstood the 47 winners that Andújar produced. Each committed 31 unforced errors. Next, Giron will play third seed Dominic Thiem Tuesday evening

No. 10 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain was upset by qualifier Federico Delbonis of Argentina, who rallied from a set and two breaks down to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final match of the day. He improved to 5-2 against Carreño Busta and is 7-0 in first round matches on clay this year. Next, the Argentine will face either Millennium Estoril Open champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Taylor Fritz of the United States.


• No. 8 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland has flown under the radar thus far with wins against Kristina Mladenovic and Bernarda Pera, winning back-to-back matches for the first time since Adelaide, where she lost the final to Iga Swiatek. With her abbreviated one hour and 38-minute, 7-6 (2), 4-3 (retired) win over No. 25 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who curtailed their round of 16 match due to a right thigh injury, Bencic is into the quarterfinals against No. 62 Paula Badosa of Spain.

Badosa, rallied to beat No. 54 Anastasija Sevastova from Latvia, 6-7 (0), 7-6 (3), 6-0, in two hours and 35 minutes on Arantxa Sanchez Vicario Stadium. She became the third Spanish woman to reach the Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinals following Annabel Medina and Carla Suárez Navarro.

“I’m very proud of myself,” said Badosa, the last Spanish woman left in the Madrid draw, said during an on-court interview after her victory. “It was a very tough match. Since the beginning, [Anastasija] made me run so much. So, I felt it in my body; I was very tired. I fought until the last point and that’s what I think won me the match.

“It’s the best result in my career and I cannot think of a better place to do it. So, I’m super proud.”

What they’re saying

Carlos Alcaraz on what makes Rafael Nadal’s game so special: “I watched Rafael Nadal a lot [growing up]. I’ve always wished to play against Rafa. I’ve learned from him. I don’t know how to describe the feeling now. It’s a dream come true [to play him]. I will try to play my best and see what happens.”

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Petra Kvitova on what her third-round victory over Veronika Kudermetova taught her: “I would say the whole match I was not relaxed but calm today. That’s how I managed it. That’s the main thing that helped me get the win. Of course, if you’re playing someone like Veronika – and she’s serving very well and couldn’t miss – that’s, of course, good for confidence. It’s something I would like to take with me to the next round.”