Zverev Shortens Points, Advances To Miami Open Quarterfinals

Alexander Zverev (photo: ATP Tour video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 30, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

As the Miami Open presented by Itaú reached the men’s round of 16 and the women’s quarterfinal round, there were plenty of interesting matchups to be found on Tuesday’s order of play – some very good ones, indeed – highlighted by the Stefanos Tsitsipas versus Carlos Alcaraz showdown on the men’s side and Naomi Osaka and Danielle Collins in the women’s draw.

Both Tsitsipas and Alcaraz are in very good form, while Osaka is playing with renewed enthusiasm and looking like the vintage player who has won four Grand Slam titles, and Collins is ready to crack the Top 10 for the second time this season.

No. 14 seed Alcaraz gave a sensational performance under the Grandstand lights and beat third seed Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-3 in two terrific sets that lasted one hour and 50 minutes. It was the 18-year-old Spaniard’s second straight win over Tsitipas following his five-set, third-round triumph at last year’s US Open.

“It was really, really tough. He was playing unbelievable,” Alcaraz said of Tsitsipas during his on-court interview and in describing the first set, which the Spaniard was all but ready to concede. “All I can say is I fought until the last ball in the first set [to] come back.”

Alcaraz rallied from 2-5 in the opening set and reeled off seven consecutive games from which the Greek star was unable to fully recover. Although Tsitsipas saved three match points, Alcaraz won with a nifty backhand drop shot that ended one last eight-shot rally. It was Alcaraz’s 28th winner of the evening. He outscored Tsitsipas 82-68.

Throughout much of the evening, Alcaraz went backhand to backhand against Tsitsipas and it proved to be a winning strategy. How was he able to do that?

“I tried to hit two or three backhand cross-court [shots] and then switch to down the line – it was the key,” Alcaraz added. “I think he lives in the backhand side all the time, looking for his forehand. It was really important, the backhand down the line.”

Next, Alcaraz will face No. 48 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who upset No. 11 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, in two hours and six minutes. The loss prevents Fritz from completing a “Sunshine Double” of winning both Indian Wells and Miami. The victory sends Kecmanovic to his fourth straight quarterfinal.

The men’s draw also featured a first meeting between Italy’s Jannik Sinner and wild card Nick Kyrgios of Australia that was filled with smashed racquets and a game penalty levied against the mercurial Aussie at the start of the second set. Sinner, who didn’t seem fazed by all of the outbursts by Kyrgios, won the fourth-round match 7-6 (3), 6-3 in one hour and 38 minutes with eight aces and 24 winners to his credit. Although Kyrgios countered with seven aces and 26 winners of his own, he also committed 27 unforced errors and was outpointed by Sinner 71-67.

“I think when I got a couple of break points early in the first set, it raised my confidence a little bit,” Sinner said during his court side interview after the victory. “It wasn’t easy. Today, I raised a little bit my level, too. Nick is a very aggressive player, especially when he serves well. I’m happy about my performance today.”

However, the day began on Stadium Court with No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany against the last remaining qualifier in the men’s draw, Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia.

Zverev, whose 2022 season has gotten off to a rocky start – which included being expelled from the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco for unsportsmanlike conduct last month – reached the quarterfinal round with a solid 6-4, 6-4 win over the 97th-ranked Kokkinakis in their first meeting, which lasted an hour and 36 minutes.

“I wanted to shorten the points as it was quite hot,” Zverev said during his on-court interview, where the temperature at the start of his match reached 80 degrees under sunny skies. “Thanasi is a very aggressive player, so I tried to take that away from him. I was returning the second serve quite well. I kept putting pressure on him and kept being aggressive and it worked out well.”

The World No. 3 Zverev fired seven aces, hit 32 winners and faced no break points on his serve. He outpointed Kokkinakis 69-54 to improve his win-loss record to 14-5. Zverev has dropped just one set in his three wins against No. 166 Borna Coric of Croatia, No. 54 Mackenzie McDonald of the United States and Kokkinakis. The five-time ATP Masters 1000 champion is hoping to make it back to the Miami final for the first time since 2018.

Among the other early winners was No. 6 seed Casper Ruud of Norway, who served up his seventh ace on his third match-point opportunity to defeat No. 10 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain in an hour and 32 minutes on the Grandstand. Ruud’s 22nd winner of the day, which gave him a 65-56 advantage in points, advanced him to the quarterfinal round against Zverev. It was Ruud’s third win against Norrie in the past five months.

“Casper is a great player, who is playing incredibly well right now,” Zverev added. “I’m looking forward to a tough battle.”

Next on Stadium Court, top seed Daniil Medvedev moved a round closer to regaining the No. 1 ranking following his 7-5, 6-1 victory over No. 39 Jenson Brooksby of the United States, in which he rallied from 3-5 down in the opening set. The 26-year-old Russian, who spent three weeks (Feb. 28-March 21) as World No. 1, dominated the young American with eight aces and 22 winners to the good. The 21-year-old Brooksby, who was attempting to reach his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal, mustered just nine winners and made 20 unforced errors. Medvedev outpointed Brooksby 63-41.

Next, Medvedev will play defending Miami Open champion Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who beat No. 44 Lloyd Harris of South Africa, 7-6 (3), 6-2, by winning the last 16 points of the match.

The biggest surprise came late in the afternoon on the Grandstand as 103rd-ranked Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, upset No. 28 seed Frances Tiafoe of the United States in a two-hour and 36-minute thriller, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-2. The 23-year-old Argentine, appearing in his first ATP Masters 1000 draw, came into the tournament having never won a tour-level match on a hard-court surface. Now, he’s strung together wins over No. 57  Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, No. 16 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States, No. 22 seed Gaël Monfils of France and Tiafoe. Cerundolo is into the quarterfinals against the World No. 11 Sinner.

Osaka wants to be remembered as a fighter

Meanwhile, the 77th-ranked Osaka said that it was her intention “to be pretty chill, and then that thing happened” at Indian Wells. Now that she’s in Miami, “I’m just like no matter what happens, I won’t let anything stop my behavior and how I put out energy in the world.

“Clearly, I have to come here to do well, but it that doesn’t happen, I just want people to remember me for being a fighter.”

Osaka came out in fighting spirit and needed just 60 minutes to knock out No. 9 seed Collins, 6-2, 6-1, and move into the Miami Open semifinals for the first time. The Japanese superstar struck 13 aces, hit 25 winners, did not face any break points on her serve – she’s been broken just once all tournament – and outpointed Collins 54-29.

The other women’s quarterfinal match featured No. 22 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland against 249th-ranked wild card Daria Saville of Australia – lowest-ranked wild card in tournament history – and it was all Bencic, who won 6-1, 6-2 in 69 minutes in a late-afternoon Stadium Court match for her fourth consecutive straight-set victory in South Florida. She hit 23 winners and converted six of 11 break points while outpointing Saville 61-34. The victory advanced Bencic to her fifth WTA 1000 semifinal – and first since 2019 – and it represents her best Miami Open result.

Tuesday’s Miami Open ATP results

Tuesday’s Miami Open WTA results

Wednesday’s Miami Open order of play

By the numbers

• Monday’s women’s round of 16 match between Australian wild card Daria Saville of Australia and lucky loser Lucia Bronzetti of Italy was the third-longest women’s match of this year’s Miami Open at 2 hours and 59 minutes, and the 14th-longest of the year.

• All 16 men’s players in the fourth round are under the age of 27 for the second time (1991) in the 37-year history of the Miami Open. The oldest remaining men’s player in the draw, 27-year-old Nick Kyrgios, was eliminated by 20-year-old Jannik Sinner.

“Quotable …”

“You know, if you play a whole tennis season, it’s quite difficult to do that because there are so many tournaments and it’s extremely long, especially with Davis Cup now. Yeah, seemed like it was the right decision for my body and for my tennis. Yeah, I think players will probably do it a little bit more if they’re playing longer in their careers maybe to preserve their body a little bit.”

Andy Murray on his decision to skip the upcoming European clay season in order to prepare for the summer grass season in Great Britain.