American moves into the fourth round in Miami for the fifth time
Reigning champion John Isner battled into the fourth round of the Miami Open presented by Itau on Sunday, defeating Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 7-6(6).
Isner was broken to start the match. But the seventh seed responded in Ramos-Vinolas’ second service game to dig into the match. He saved the next four break points he faced and struck 16 aces en route to a one-hour, 53-minute victory.
Ramos-Vinolas has been a tricky opponent for Isner in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with the players splitting three-setters in Rome in the past two years. But those clashes were on clay, and while five of their six previous sets went to tie-breaks, Isner needed just one in the second set to advance.
“I did a lot of things well today,” Isner said. “I played a good first set, even though I didn’t start it off well. In the second, it wasn’t quite as clean. I’ll talk to my coach and try to iron things out. But I’m into the Round of 16 of a big tournament and I’m happy.
“Playing him on clay is a different animal, but I learned a few things from Rome last year. There were many tactical things that I needed to change. I did that today.”
The 2018 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier has found a good string of form after losing his first two matches of the season. Isner reached three consecutive ATP Tour semi-finals in New York, Delray Beach and Rio de Janeiro before losing to then-World No. 13 Karen Khachanov in the fourth round at Indian Wells.
“When the sun is out, the court is more lively,” Isner assessed. “But I enjoy the shade, especially when the sun is beating down on me. This whole tournament is fantastic though. I heard that some 40,000 fans came in yesterday. It’s all about bringing fans into the tournament and that’s what they did yesterday. It is my tournament to defend, but it does have a different feel to it.”
Isner will next face 19th seed Kyle Edmund. They have already practised together in Miami and split their two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, both in 2016. Isner prevailed on the clay of Roland Garros, with Edmund getting revenge on the hard courts of the US Open.
On Sunday, the British No. 1 continued his stellar start to the tournament with an efficient 6-4, 6-4 win over Milos Raonic. He needed one hour and 34 minutes to prevail, overcoming 21 winners off the Canadian’s racquet, while striking 15 of his own.
Edmund, who opened his campaign at the Hard Rock Stadium with a straight-set win over Ilya Ivashka on Friday, is coming off a fourth round finish at the BNP Paribas Open. The week prior, he lifted the trophy at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Indian Wells, in what was his first tournament in more than a month in his recovery from a knee injury.
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The World No. 22 is enjoying his first taste of success in Miami in his sixth appearance, having previously never advanced past the second round. He is in the midst of a 7-2 run in ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, also reaching the quarter-finals in Shanghai in October.
Polish No. 1 set to battle Auger-Aliassime in Miami
Polish No. 1 Hubert Hurkacz is one of the quieter players on the ATP Tour. Everyone ‘Hubi’ comes across, he greets extremely politely with a smile. Overall, he’s simply a good guy. But while the 22-year-old is quiet, his game is speaking loudly for him.
Entering the BNP Paribas Open, Hurkacz had never won an ATP Masters 1000 match. Not only did he reach the fourth round — including three victories against Top 30 opponents — but he is now into the third round in Miami after stunning Indian Wells champion Dominic Thiem.
“It’s great. I’m just trying to enjoy every moment,” said Hurkacz, who qualified for the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals. “To be able to play that match against Dominic was really special for me. He’s an unbelievable player, so I needed to play at a top level. It happened, and I’m very happy with that.”
Hurkacz began working with a new coach Craig Boynton (also with Steve Johnson) at Indian Wells. The veteran mentor says that it’s his charge’s competitive spirit that has stood out with his success.
“He’s not afraid to win, and that’s a very, very appealing quality. He wants to win, he’s very competitive, he’s a fighter, he’s very resilient. He doesn’t usually let bad moments linger too long,” Boynton said. “Those are all the things that as a coach you look for in wanting to work with. You take that piece of it and he’s a really good tennis player, put those two together and now it’s just filling in the blanks, making everything a little bit better and I’m just excited to get out on the tournament courts with him and see how the Tour’s going to react to playing him.”
The World No. 54’s competitive spirit has been on full display this month. In the California desert, he battled through three-setters against Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille, Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori and #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
Hurkacz, who also defeated Nishikori in Dubai, has won both of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against the World No. 6 in three sets. Nishikori is 129-44 in tour-level deciding sets (75%), meaning that nearly five per cent of his losses in matches that have gone the distance have come against Hurkacz.
“That was his competitive spirit there. That was him rising to the occasion that got him out of those situations. It wasn’t like all of a sudden there was a big on-off switch on off and here we go now you’re good, now you go,” Boynton said. “He’s had to fight through and come back and be down and out against some really, really good players to get to where he is now.”
While Hurkacz is quiet off the court, you can visibly see his determination on it. In a way, his competitiveness is not all that different from Boynton’s other player, Johnson, who is known for his battling spirit.
“He is very energetic. He’s very positive. He does a lot of fist pumping,” Boynton said. “He’s not as boisterous as Stevie can be, but he’s within the same positive, let’s rip your heart out, this assassin — if you will — type of energy. They both really want to win.”
Hurkacz stands 6’5”, has a strong first serve, and the Pole said that his backhand was the key to his victory against Thiem.
“I think if you take a look at him, people have said he kind of mirrors Andy Murray a little bit with a similar routine on returns, a little bit of a similar backhand,” Boynton said. “He’s a little taller than Andy. Andy’s movement was phenomenal. But Hubi’s a very good athlete, too.”
Hurkacz is still new to the ATP Tour. Entering the week of Indian Wells last year, he was outside the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings and had never played a match at an ATP Tour event. So while he has proven he can compete on the biggest stages against some of the best players in the sport, there is still plenty to learn.
“We’ve been working on him being present for every point. He’s learning a lot of different concepts, so it’s really for him to avoid the mental letdowns. If he has his ‘A’ game every single point, what a nightmare he’s going to be to deal with,” Boynton said. “You’re going to have to beat him three times to beat him instead of beating him twice. It’s about eliminating those down times and having him locked in for every point and with a purpose for every point.”
Hurkacz will look to continue his surge against another emerging player in #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday. He’ll look to speak loudly with his game once again.
“He’s doing recently amazing results. I wish him all the best, because he’s a really great guy,” Hurkacz said. “[But] I’m trying to focus on my game. He’s obviously a great player, a great fighter, so it’s going to be a good level.”
Djokovic Continues Quest For Miami History; Sunday Schedule & Preview
Isner, Kyrgios also headline play
If the past nine months have proven anything, it’s that Novak Djokovic isn’t a fan of sharing. The top seed at the Miami Open presented by Itau has won the past three Grand Slams, lifted two ATP Masters 1000 titles (Cincinnati, Shanghai) and established himself as the clear leader in the ATP Rankings.
Djokovic shares the record for most Miami titles won (6) with Andre Agassi, but has a chance to take it over with a seventh crown. He’ll first need to get through his third-round clash on Sunday against Federico Delbonis. The Argentine has enjoyed success before in Miami, reaching the fourth round in 2017, and has enjoyed big wins in his career over Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray.
Seventh seed John Isner continues his title defense against Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain. The pair are even in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series at 1-1, but this is their first hard-court meeting. Both of their previous matches went the distance and Ramos-Vinolas has a game that can frustrate the world’s best.
Nick Kyrgios, the No. 27 seed, looks to continue his climb back up the ATP Rankings when he faces Dusan Lajovic of Serbia. Their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting came last year in Miami, with the Aussie comfortably winning in two sets. This is Kyrgios’ most successful Masters 1000 event. His resume in Miami includes an 11-3 record and two semi-final appearances in 2016 and 2017.
Other notable matches on Sunday include No. 11 seed Borna Coric of Croatia taking on Jeremy Chardy of France, No. 12 seed Milos Raonic of Canada squaring off against No. 19 seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain, and a battle of rising stars that sees #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime going up against Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.
STADIUM start 12:00 noon Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) vs  John Isner (USA) Not Before 2:00 pm WTA match  Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs Federico Delbonis (ARG) Not Before 7:30pm WTA match Not Before 9:00 pm  Nick Kyrgios (AUS) vs Dusan Lajovic SRB)
GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon WTA match  Milos Raonic (CAN) vs  Kyle Edmund (GBR) Not Before 4:00 pm Two WTA matches Not Before 7:00pm  Borna Coric (CRO) vs Jeremy Chardy (FRA)
COURT 1 start 11:00 Maximo Gonzalez (ARG) / Horacio Zeballos (ARG) vs  Juan Sebastian Cabal (COL) / Robert Farah (COL) Not Before 12:00 noon  Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs  Fabio Fognini (ITA)  Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) vs Robin Haase (NED) Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs [Q] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) WTA match
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BUTCH BUCHHOLZ start 11:00 am Feliciano Lopez (ESP) / Marc Lopez (ESP) vs Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) Not before 12:30pm Rohan Bopanna (IND) / Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs  Marcel Granollers (ESP) / Nikola Mektic (CRO) 2 WTA matches Rajeev Ram (USA) / Joe Salisbury (GBR) vs John Isner (USA) / Sam Querrey (USA)
COURT 6 start 11:00 am WTA match Not Before 1:00 pm WTA match  Raven Klaasen (RSA) / Michael Venus (NZL) vs Matwe Middelkoop (NED) / Diego Schwartzman (ARG) Wesley Koolhof (NED) / Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs  Jamie Murray (GBR) / Bruno Soares (BRA) WTA match
Spaniard sets third round clash against Frances Tiafoe
If Saturday’s performance is any indication of David Ferrer’s form, the Spaniard might want to reconsider his retirement from the ATP Tour.
Ferrer turned in a vintage display under the lights at the Miami Open presented by Itau, storming back from a set down to defeat Alexander Zverev 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. In front of a packed crowd at Hard Rock Stadium, the dogged Ferrer turned back the clock for the second-round victory. It marked his first win over a Top 5 opponent since 2015, when he upset Kei Nishikori in the Acapulco final.
The 36-year-old, a former World No. 3, is in the midst of a farewell tour after recently announcing that the Mutua Madrid Open will be his last professional tournament. It’s safe to say he will be fist pumping to the very end.
“It means a lot,” said Ferrer. “It’s a special day because it’s the last year of professional tennis for me. Winning these type of matches against a Top 10 player like Sascha is a gift. I’m very happy and I’m trying to enjoy every point and every moment.
“My motivation is playing at a high level and be competitive. It’s my goal. I can’t play at my best level anymore, but I want to have good energy and play my best in every match.”
Fighting for every ball and refusing to yield an inch from the baseline, Ferrer put Zverev on his heels as the match wore on. A relentless fighter, it was a fitting tribute to his entire career. Runner-up in 2013, Ferrer had the crowd on his side throughout the encounter. Their cheers reached a deafening roar as he fought back in the second set and claimed the decisive break for 3-2 in the third.
Ferrer has tasted victory in Miami more than any other ATP Masters 1000 event, posting an impressive 33-16 record. He will next face Frances Tiafoe on Monday for a spot in the Round of 16. It will be their first FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter.
Guile, grit and determination. Tiafoe needed it all and then some to advance on Saturday at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
Tiafoe survived an all-#NextGenATP duel with 19-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic, triumphing 7-6(6), 7-6(5) in two hours and four minutes. With momentum swinging between both sides of the court, the American overcame a break deficit in the first set to rally for the victory. He fired 45 winners in total.
The Maryland native limped to the finish line in the second set tie-break, after Kecmanovic recovered a break earlier in the set. Battling severe cramps in his left leg, Tiafoe looked to shorten points and he would seal the win with a drop shot-volley combo.
One year ago, the World No. 34 enjoyed his best result at an ATP Masters 1000 event, reaching the Round of 16 in Miami. There, he upset Kyle Edmund and Tomas Berdych. On Monday, Tiafoe will look to match that result when he faces Ferrer next.
Earlier on Saturday, eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas booked a third-round encounter against Leonardo Mayer. The Greek defeated American lucky loser Mackenzie McDonald 7-6(4), 6-1 in one hour and 25 minutes.
Tsitsipas converted four of eight break chances to prevail. Now into the third round, he is in strong form after also lifting the trophy in Marseille and finishing runner-up to Roger Federer in Dubai last month. The #NextGenATP star is enjoying his deepest run in Miami.
Mayer, meanwhile, booked his spot in the third round with a 6-2, 6-4 win over countryman Guido Pella to open proceedings on Day 4. He is appearing in Miami for the seventh time.
In other action, 18th seed David Goffin defeated Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-1 to set a third-round date with Marco Cecchinato. The Thomas Johansson pupil is seeking a Round of 16 appearance for the third time in four years in Miami.
The FedEx ATP Head2Head series is knotted at one apiece after Goffin triumphed in Rome last year and Cecchinato followed suit at Roland Garros. The Belgian also owns an ATP Tour qualifying victory over the Italian in Casablanca five years ago.
Defending Champions Lead Day 4 Doubles Surge Eight matches were completed on the doubles court on Saturday, with reigning champs Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan advancing 6-1, 6-4 over Marton Fucsovics and Roman Jebavy. The Americans are five-time winners in Miami, having lifted the trophy in 2007-08, 2014-15 and 2018.
Top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, champions in 2017, also earned an opening-round rout on Saturday, earning a 6-2, 6-2 win over Marco Cecchinato and Andres Molteni. They are joined by fifth seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic and 2014 finalists Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah as Day 4 winners.
Blinded By The Height? Opelka Says Just Wait For The Earth To Turn
American next faces Daniil Medvedev
A battle between 6’ 11” Reilly Opelka and 5’ 7” Diego Schwartzman was always going to have a quirky element to it. But height played a central role in an unusual dispute that led to a six-minute stoppage during the second-round match-up at the Miami Open Saturday.
At 2-all in the first set, Opelka called a time-out when he said sunlight reflecting on windows from neighbouring Hard Rock Stadium made it impossible for him to serve. ATP Supervisor Cedric Mourier, who had granted a halt in a match one day earlier for the same reason, agreed to a limited halt in play while the reflection issue subsided.
World No. 24 Schwartzman expressed his frustration, claiming that Opelka was only impeded because of his height.
While the Argentine made it clear to Opelka that he was not upset with him personally, he voiced his displeasure to Mourier and chair umpire Simon Cannavan. “It’s not fair to stop,” the Argentine said. “He’s too tall. That’s [the only reason] we’ve stopped.”
Opelka saw it differently.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with height,” he said. “I literally was blinded. I couldn’t see when I was throwing the ball up. The Supervisor was sitting out there for a reason. Every outside court has had the issue at different times when the sun is in different spots. He knew it was going to happen any minute and I would not have been able to play. Diego was friendly enough with me – he’s a classy guy – he just wasn’t happy with the ref.
“I didn’t even see the ball the point before. Then at 15/30 I went to toss it and I could not see. It [the reflection] just hit that second.”
After the match, Schwartzman said, “He’s too tall and he couldn’t see because of the stadium. It’s a new rule; if the player has any problem, you can stop. I think it’s not fair. I’ve never seen something like this. The stadium is 300m from our court.”
In an unlikely storyline, Opelka, who averages more than 20 aces a match, didn’t serve one ace against the diminutive Schwartzman in the first set, which featured five service breaks. He finished with eight aces for the match but took solace in beating such a quality opponent 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 when his serve wasn’t firing.
“It just wasn’t a good serving day. Didn’t hit my spots well or serve a high percentage. It was one of the worst service performances of the year. But he is one of the best returners in the game and he breaks serve more than anybody.
“I am happy that with my biggest weapon not working and coming off food poisoning two nights ago that I was still able to beat a great player. It shows there is more to my game than my serve and this match really showed that. I had to scrap for a lot of points.”
Opelka next meets World No. 15 Russian Daniil Medvedev, whom he pushed to a third-set tie-break in their only meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2017.
“It’s a very difficult match-up. He’s so tall and long. He’s going to be touching all my serves and from the baseline he’s a lot better than me, so it’s going to be brutal. I think he’s one of the top eight players in the world. He’s already close to the Top 10.
“His backhand is money and he’s solid off every angle. He’s big and it’s tough to get the ball by him. He crushes the ball so flat, so you can’t penetrate off his ball because he’s coming at you so hard. He’s a nightmare.
“The guys ahead of him are all older. He’s going to be a consistent Top 8 in the world in the next couple of years.”