MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The hopes of American men’s tennis rest largely on the talented rackets of Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul.
But a Spanish roadblock named Carlos Alcaraz is in the way -- never more illustrated by the last few days at the Miami Open.
Two days after routing the Australian Open semifinalist Paul, the top-ranked Alcaraz took his spectacular arsenal to the highest-ranked American man in No. 10 Fritz and blasted into the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-2 victory at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday, March 30, 2023.
In the women’s draw, Elena Rybakina advanced to the finals on Saturday, April 1, with a 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over Jessica Pegula in a match delayed twice by rain.
Rybakina, the Wimbledon champion, won her 13th straight match and is seeking to become the fifth woman to achieve the “sunshine double” — back-to-back titles in the hard-court tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami.
Before a packed crowd that included John McEnroe and was split in support, Alcaraz broke Fritz’s serve in the first game. He used that one break to squeak out the first set and finished the match in a tidy 1 hour, 18 minutes. Alcaraz faced just two break points and turned away both chances as he improved his match record to 18-1 in 2023.
“I took the opportunity of every break point I had,” the Spaniard said. “I was solid and aggressive at the same time.”
This was the first meeting between the two and an opportunity for Fritz to assess how close he is to a breakthrough. The match was postponed Wednesday night, only delaying the inevitable.
“Obviously playing the best player in the world, you can’t just drop your serve to start both sets,” Fritz said. “He doesn’t give you much for free... All the important points in the match, he won.”
The 19-year-old Alcaraz proved too tough in Miami against two Americans who reside in South Florida. Fritz moved recently to Miami and Paul has lived in the Delray Beach/Boca Raton area for years.
Alcaraz will play Jannik Sinner in the semifinals Friday, March 31, a rematch of their semifinal at Indian Wells, where Alcaraz went on to win the title.
The reigning US Open champion and defending Miami Open champion boasts a glorious drop shot, beautifully controlled groundstrokes and a sneaky net game. Alcaraz’s graceful court coverage is reminiscent of his countryman Rafael Nadal. There are no clear weaknesses, as Fritz found out.
Fritz had one moment to seize, gaining a break point against Alcaraz trailing 2-3, trying to get back on serve. Alcaraz saved the break point in fantastic fashion. Fritz initially made a lovely pop-up retrieve of a would-be winner, but Alcaraz boldly took a chance moments later, rushing to the net to convert a difficult low volley winner.
In an earlier men’s quarterfinal of extreme height, No. 5 Daniil Medvedev ended the career-best run of 6-foot-7 American qualifier Chris Eubanks with a 6-3, 7-5 victory.
For all his accomplishments, the 6-6 Medvedev, who has won 22 of his last 23 matches, had never made the Miami Open semifinals.
It sets up an all-Russian semifinal Friday as he faces Karen Khachanov, who beat Francisco Cerundolo 6-3, 6-2. Medvedev holds a 3-1 career advantage against his longtime friend.
Medvedev, who lost to Alcaraz in the final at Indian Wells, has garnered three ATP titles this year (Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai).
Eubanks, a 26-year-old former Georgia Tech star ranked 102nd, had never advanced to a quarterfinal of an ATP event of this level and had actor Jamie Foxx in the stands cheering him on.
“It’s been a dream week for me,” Eubanks said, noting Foxx has followed his career for “the past couple of years.”
Eubanks was on serve with Medvedev early, leading 3-2 before a brief rain delay. Medvedev came back roaring to win the next four games to close out the set. Eubanks said Medvedev made a “tactical change” after the delay, moving in on his second serve.
The other women’s semifinal was finally set with 15th seed Petra Kvitova advancing to face unseeded, 74th-ranked Sorana Cirstea, who beat Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka on Wednesday, March 29.
In a quarterfinal postponed by Wednesday night’s rain, Kvitova defeated No. 18 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Shaking off a rash of double faults in the second, Kvitova prevailed in the third, but she could be at a competitive disadvantage without a day of rest facing Cirstea. Neither Kvitova nor Cirstea will have an extra day to prepare for Saturday’s final against Rybakina. (AP)
March 31, 2023
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