Home competition discipline Miami showdown on the horizon for Alcaraz and Sinner

Miami showdown on the horizon for Alcaraz and Sinner

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Tennis’ newest and hottest rivalry was dialled up a notch last week in the Indian Wells semi-finals, when Alcaraz put the first blemish on Sinner’s perfect season by halting the Italian’s 16-match winning streak.

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain (left) greets Jannik Sinner of Italy (right) after winning match point during the men’s semi-final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, USA, 16 March 2024. Picture: EPA, JOHN G. MABANGLO

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz and No.2 Jannik Sinner took the first confident steps towards the mouth-watering Miami Open final tennis fans want to see by romping into the third round on Saturday with blow-out wins.

Tennis’ newest and hottest rivalry was dialled up a notch last week in the Indian Wells semi-finals, when Alcaraz put the first blemish on Sinner’s perfect season by halting the Italian’s 16-match winning streak.

Sinner shrugged off the loss, saying Miami would be a fresh start, which began with a breezy, workmanlike 6-3 6-4 win over fellow Italian Andrea Vavassori.

Alcaraz, who went on to win Indian Wells and arrives in Miami bidding to complete the “Sunshine Double”, was no less efficient in a clinical 6-2 6-1 win over Roberto Carballes Baena in an all-Spanish encounter.

The win certainly impressed three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray, who went on X immediately after the match and posted: “Watching Alcaraz play tennis makes me smile.”

“That’s pretty cool for a legend like Andy to say something like this, that he enjoys a lot watching my matches,” said Alcaraz. “It’s crazy for me. He has seen a lot of tennis during his career, a lot of matches, a lot of players.”

With the two young guns hogging the spotlight, defending champion Daniil Medvedev has been flying under the radar, but that may not last much longer after the third seed moved on with a tidy 6-4 6-2 win over Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.

After two days of rain the sun returned to the Miami Open, but it was still a gloomy Saturday for US hopes as three of the top four-ranked American men, led by 12th seed Taylor Fritz, crashed out in the second round.

Joining Fritz at the Hard Rock stadium exit were 13th seed Tommy Paul and 21st seed Frances Tiafoe, leaving No.16 Ben Shelton as the highest-ranked American standing.

After only eight matches were completed on Friday because of rain, the start of play was again delayed by three hours on Saturday, before Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild kicked off the action on Stadium court with a 6-3 6-4 upset of Fritz.

A perfect 10-0 in opening matches since the start of last year, Fritz appeared bamboozled by the 24-year-old, who enjoyed the support of a small but vocal flag-waving Brazilian crowd.

While Fritz piled up 26 unforced errors and managed a single break opportunity, Seyboth Wild converted three of his five break chances.

“I played a really solid match today, I barely missed,” said Wild, who is no stranger to producing upsets, beating Daniil Medvedev at last year’s French Open. “It was exactly the plan with my coach before the match.”

Paul, coming off a run to the semi-finals last weekend at Indian Wells, had looked headed for the third round when he grabbed the opening set 6-4 against fellow American Martin Damm.

Those hopes ended with Damm up 2-1 in the second when Paul appeared to turn his left ankle before hobbling to his bench and retiring.

Tiafoe may be a crowd favourite wherever he plays in the US, but the support was not enough help him against Christopher O’Connell as the Australian scratched out a 7-5 7-6 (7/5) win.

In one of the many matches suspended on Friday by rain, Denis Shapovalov returned on Saturday to deliver an upset, finishing off 10th-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2 6-4.

Leading 2-1 when play was stopped, the Canadian had his Greek opponent under constant pressure, piling up 18 break opportunities and converting three, while Tsitsipas could not manage a single break chance the entire contest.

Britain’s former world No 1 Murray earned back-to-back victories for the first time this season, closing out his rain-hit match with a 7-6 (9/7) 6-3 decision over Argentine Thomas Martin Etcheverry.

After starting the campaign losing the opening contest in his first four tournaments, including the Australian Open, Murray advanced to the second round in his next four events before getting to the third round in Florida.

Reuters

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