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Mektic/Pavic Make History, Storm To Miami Title

  • Posted: Apr 03, 2021

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic have been on fire to begin their new partnership in 2021, and they showed it on Saturday with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Daniel Evans and Neal Skupski to win the Miami Open presented by Itau.

Mektic and Pavic have already won four tournaments this year (also Antalya, Melbourne-2 and Rotterdam). With their five victories in Florida, they are now 25-3 on the season.

The champions became the second all-Croatian team to win an ATP Masters 1000 title, and the first duo from their country to triumph in Miami. The second seeds did not lose a set en route to the trophy. The only other all-Croatian pair to claim glory at this level was Mektic and Franko Skugor at the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

“As long as I’m a part of those teams, I’m good,” Mektic said, cracking a laugh. “It’s incredible. Like I said on the court, it means a lot to win with a friend, with a fellow Croatian, to win such a big tournament.
But like we said, we just started, so I hope we are going to have much more to celebrate.”

Pavic, who is one of the biggest doubles servers on the ATP Tour, double faulted to give the Brits an early break. But the favourites remained undeterred, breaking back in the next game when Pavic crushed a return at deuce.

That became the trend of the match. Although the Brits battled hard throughout, the Croatians had too big of a combined game, often forcing net errors with their big groundstrokes and overwhelming aggression. Evans and Skupski struggled to go on the offensive, and their opponents surged to their win after one hour and 16 minutes.

“I think they played a very good match, very solid. They started off very well. They were also returning great from the beginning of the match… They played some great games,” Pavic said. “They are a tough team, and they proved that also with a few big wins this week to get to the final.
I think we were just very solid, very confident with all these matches that we won from before and we played a great match.”

Mektic and Pavic overcame 2020 Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, the seventh seeds, in the semi-finals. They depart Miami with 1,000 FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings points.

Evans and Skupski enjoyed a dream run in their team debut. They became just the third all-British duo to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final. Although they were unable to lift the trophy, the Brits add 600 points each to their tally. Two weeks ago, Skupski won the Acapulco crown with his brother, Ken Skupski.

Did You Know?
Pavic will ascend to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings on Monday. The Croatian, who first reached the pinnacle in May 2018, will surge past Colombian Robert Farah.

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Will Hurkacz Or Sinner Triumph? Friends Turn Foes In Miami Final

  • Posted: Apr 03, 2021

It’s safe to say that few predicted Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner would meet in the final of the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the season. But both men have a massive opportunity in Sunday’s Miami Open presented by Itau championship clash and the big question is, who will take advantage of the moment?

Two of the nicest guys on Tour will step on Grandstand in South Florida for the biggest match of their young careers Sunday, but only one can walk off as the winner. Hurkacz and Sinner have never competed against one another, nor has either player previously reached a Masters 1000 final. But the two-time doubles partners will turn into rivals, at least for a day.

“Jannik is a great person. I think like it’s super, super calm and super chill, and also he’s good person. He’s a really nice guy and he really wants it hard, [he] competes to win,” Hurkacz said. “He’s a really, really great guy. The results that he has [are] obviously because of his hard work.”

Hubert Hurkacz, Jannik Sinner
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
The Miami opponents count each other as friends. But they have to put their friendship aside and focus on the task at hand. A win on Sunday will be the biggest of the champion’s career. Although Hurkacz and Sinner have both enjoyed incredible runs thus far, there is still plenty at stake.

Sinner is just the fourth teen to reach the Miami final. The other three who have accomplished the feat — Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — have all climbed to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. A victory would make the #NextGenATP Italian the youngest titlist in tournament history.

“It’s a great result here,” Sinner said. “But first, I have one more match in front of me.”

The 19-year-old is the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since Nadal triumphed at the 2005 Mutua Madrid Open. He isn’t allowing himself to get wrapped up in the attention he is receiving, though. While the teen is happy that his achievements are putting him in elite company, Sinner is fully focussed on beating Hurkacz.

“We came here I think with the right mentality, with the right mindset. We always go to every tournament to win, trying to win as many matches as possible,” Sinner said. “Some weeks you do better and some weeks you do a little bit worse, but I think I have a good team behind me who can show me many, many things.”

Teenage ATP Masters 1000 Champions

 Player  Masters 1000 Titles As Teen
 Rafael Nadal  6
 Andrei Medvedev  2
 Novak Djokovic   1
 Michael Chang  1
 Andre Agassi  1

Sinner knows Hurkacz will be a difficult opponent, telling Tennis Channel on Friday that, “Hurkacz has [had] a very good run here. He can play very, very good.”

The Polish No. 1 has dismissed back-to-back Top 10 opponents, eliminating World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and World No. 8 Andrey Rublev. It has been an impressive road to the final considering he began the week having lost five of his previous seven matches.

“Obviously I was just trying to work on my game and play my best tennis,” Hurkacz said. “Luckily and happily, I’m here in the finals now.”

Stats Entering The Final

 Stats  Jannik Sinner  Hubert Hurkacz
 Aces  14  51
 First-Serve Pts Won  69%  77%
 Second-Serve Pts Won  57%  53%
 Break Points Saved  74% (25/34)  78% (21/27)
 Break Points Converted  44% (18/41)  31% (10/32)

It should be an interesting tactical match. Sinner is one of the cleanest hitters on the ATP Tour and although Hurkacz is 6’5” and can play aggressively — as he showed against Rublev and Tsitsipas — he excels with his movement. Some have compared the Pole to former World No. 1 Andy Murray. Wojtek Fibak, the only other Polish ATP Tour titlist, who reached the Top 10 in singles and doubles, expects a good match on Sunday.

“They are very similar. They have all the same characteristics: serve, backhand, forehand, movement, tall guys, big serves. Maybe the second serve of Hubert is a bit better, more consistent. And I think Hubert has more experience, because he’s been on the Tour longer,” Fibak told ATPTour.com. “Tomorrow I think will be a bit closer because of all the weapons Sinner has. He has the same weapons as Hubert. He knows how to play at the net… he has the same talent and he’s working hard, but he’s only 19.”

The battle could come down to who is more clutch in the big moments. Hurkacz and Sinner have saved 78 and 74 per cent of the break points they have faced this tournament, respectively. Will the Pole shine for his country, or will Sinner continue his rapid rise?

“I’m happy about what I was able to do this week,” Sinner said. “There is one more match in front of me, so I’m trying to play my tennis.”

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Monfils & Svitolina Announce Engagement

  • Posted: Apr 03, 2021

Gael Monfils and WTA Tour star Elina Svitolina announced their engagement Saturday on social media.

“She said YES ♥️ Madame Monfils @ElinaSvitolina,” Monfils wrote on Twitter, accompanied by a photo of a ring on the Ukrainian’s finger.

Svitolina posted a picture of the couple at the base of snowy mountains with her ring on. She wrote: “YES!!! To the beginning of our forever💍🥰 .”

The couple had already become fan favourites with their G.E.M.S. Life Instagram account and fun social media posts. G.E.M.S. stands for their combined initials: Gael Elina Monfils Svitolina.

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Monfils & Svitolina Announce Engagement

  • Posted: Apr 03, 2021

Gael Monfils and WTA Tour star Elina Svitolina announced their engagement Saturday on social media.

“She said YES ♥️ Madame Monfils @ElinaSvitolina,” Monfils wrote on Twitter, accompanied by a photo of a ring on the Ukrainian’s finger.

Svitolina posted a picture of the couple at the base of snowy mountains with her ring on. She wrote: “YES!!! To the beginning of our forever💍🥰 .”

The couple had already become fan favourites with their G.E.M.S. Life Instagram account and fun social media posts. G.E.M.S. stands for their combined initials: Gael Elina Monfils Svitolina.

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Hurkacz: ‘Now I'm In The Moment’ Ahead Of Miami Final

  • Posted: Apr 03, 2021

In a battle between two first-time ATP Masters 1000 finalists, 26th seed Hubert Hurkacz knows that he will have to put friendship and camaraderie aside for a shot at the Miami Open presented by Itau title.

After enjoying an under-the-radar run in Miami, Hurkacz burst into the spotlight on Friday with a stunner over fourth seed Andrey Rublev in straight sets. It was the first time the 24-year-old Pole has won back-to-back matches against Top 10 players in the same tournament, after defeating second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-final. 

“I think now I’m in the moment,” Hurkacz said in his post-match press conference. “I’m just trying, and obviously super happy to be where I am now, but now we try to prepare as best as we can with [coach Craig Boynton] for that final match on Sunday.”

He will meet a familiar face in that championship match – but it’s one that Hurkacz will be more used to seeing on his side of the net, as the Pole is set to take on 19-year-old Jannik Sinner for the first time.

Good friends, frequent practice partners and occasionally a doubles team, Hurkacz and Sinner have already shared the court at two tournaments since the start of the year, racking up a 3-2 record on the season.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

“We played doubles together last week in Dubai,” Hurkacz said, grinning in an on-court interview. “Now we’re playing in the final of a Masters 1000 event, so it’s going to be a fun match.”

The #NextGenATP Italian has called Hurkacz one of his best friends on court, and the Pole had some kind words of his own for the fast-rising teen ahead of their battle.

“Jannik is a great person. I think like [he’s] super, super calm and super chill, and also he’s a good person,” Hurkacz said. “We joke around. We are good friends, so I wish him well.”

Hurkacz is looking for his third ATP Tour title and the biggest of his career in Miami. The Pole began the season on a tear, triumphing at the Delray Beach presented by VITACOST.com. But he hit a ‘skid’ in the weeks that followed, and had struggled to return to his best tennis heading into the first Masters 1000 event of the year.

Even after a milestone fortnight in South Florida – where he’s racked up a nine-match winning streak, including his run in Delray Beach – the most important moment for Hurkacz came early in the tournament. After a tough battle in the opening round, the Pole sealed more than just a confidence-boosting win over Denis Shapovalov in the second: it was the first time he closed out back-to-back victories in four tournaments.

“In the first round I beat Denis Kudla, but [it was] obviously… [a] close match [that] I won in the tie-breaker the first set,” he reflected. “But after that, Denis Shapovalov – [he] beat me the week before in Dubai.

“I think every single match was very tough. [I am] super pumped I was able to come through all of those matches.”

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Rublev: ’Today Was Not My Day’

  • Posted: Apr 03, 2021

Andrey Rublev suffered a tough loss on Friday evening against Hubert Hurkacz in the semi-finals of the Miami Open presented by Itau, but the Russian star looked at the positives of his run rather than dwelling on his defeat.

“It’s [been a] great week for me. I did my first semis [at an ATP Masters 1000]. I’m playing really consistent. Every week I go deep in the tournament,” Rublev said. “Today was not my day. Hurkacz played really well and he deserved to win. That’s it. Not much to say more. Now it’s time to go back to work hard to be ready for the clay season.”

The World No. 8 has been one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour, leading all players with 20 tour-level victories. But entering the week, he had only made one ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final.

That’s why it looked like destiny was aligning for the 23-year-old when he bludgeoned his way to the semi-finals and was the only Top 10 player remaining. But Hurkacz broke Rublev’s serve immediately, and the Russian was never able to find his aggressive best.

“It’s just maybe I couldn’t handle a bit [of] pressure that well and he was playing quite well,” Rublev admitted. “That’s it.”

[WATCH LIVE 1]

The fourth seed battled hard until the end, earning three break points as the Polish No. 1 served for the match. But he was never able to get into his typically dominant position in any of those rallies.

“I still was close. I almost come back, but it was not enough. I was not playing that aggressive like normally I’m playing. I was a bit more defensive,” Rublev said. “I didn’t probably handle pressure, emotions well, and that was the key.”

Rublev only pointed the blame at himself. Although the eight-time ATP Tour champion was unable to reach his first Masters 1000 final, he gave all the credit to Hurkacz, who accomplished that same feat. The Pole will play Jannik Sinner for the title.

“He was better today, and that’s why he deserved to win,” Rublev said. “Simple.”

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Hurkacz Leads Rublev, Closes In On Miami Final Berth

  • Posted: Apr 03, 2021

Playing in his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final, 26th seed Hubert Hurkacz took a big step on the way to the championship match at the Miami Open presented by Itau after winning the opening set against fourth seed Andrey Rublev 6-3 in emphatic style.

The fast-rising Pole has been looking right at home on the courts in Florida, where he lives and trains part-time – and where he began the season with a run to his second ATP Tour trophy at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com. A victory on Friday would make it nine matches victories in a row this year in Florida for Hurkacz.

Hurkacz is halfway to doubling his ATP Head2Head lead against Rublev, having claimed victory in their only previous encounter last year at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. He made a rapid start on Grandstand, where he quickly broke the Rublev serve to take a 3-0 lead.

Coming into their semi-final clash, fourth seed Rublev had only dropped serve twice in the entire tournament – both times came at the hands of Sebastian Korda in the previous round – and had yet to drop a set. From 1-5 down, the Russian saved five set points across three games to narrow the gap, but Hurkacz sealed the set after 40 minutes.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

Jannik Sinner, the 21st seed, awaits the winner in the championship match. The 19-year-old Italian is also into his maiden ATP Masters 1000 final after defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Sinner is looking to seal a breakthrough week by becoming the youngest champion in tournament history.

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How Sinner Is Storming Down His 'Long Road'

  • Posted: Apr 03, 2021

When Jannik Sinner broke onto the scene in 2019, the Italian was adamant that he was focussed on improving, not just his winning. It was all about “the process” and getting better in the long term. If Sinner lost and learned, he was okay with that. Two years ago this week, the teen was competing in a Futures event in Italy, still the No. 322 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

That makes it all the more amazing that Sinner reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final on Friday, defeating game veteran Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-finals of the Miami Open presented by Itau. On Sunday the 19-year-old, the same player who admitted he prioritises development over trophies, can become the youngest titlist in the history of a tournament where Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic both won as teenagers.

“Obviously it’s very nice to be part of this final, to play a final, to play for a win, but… I just try to improve every day. That’s for my next years. That is still the main goal,” Sinner said. “[I am] just trying to practise day after day with the right mentality. Then we will see in next years or in next months what’s coming.”

It’s easy to forget that this is just Sinner’s third Masters 1000 main draw and first on hard courts. Both of those previous appearances came at home in Rome. This is all new to Sinner, yet you would never know by watching him. After crushing a backhand winner on match point, the teen quietly pumped his fist as he looked at his team. Only after shaking hands with Bautista Agut and then waving to the Miami crowd did Sinner allow himself to crack a smile.

Sinner’s father, Johann, is a chef and his mother, Siglinde, is a waitress in the same restaurant. The 19-year-old believes his demeanour comes from his parents and their work ethic.

“I have it from my parents because they are working every day a simple job,” Sinner said. “They know what it means to work hard. They gave me this kind of mindset, always trying your best day after day and trying to don’t lose energy during your job.”

Perhaps it’s that mentality that has allowed Sinner to improve at warp speed. For most players, it takes years of experience to climb the ATP Tour ladder and get used to the increasing level of competition. But the World No. 31 does not get distracted by the attention or the rapidly-improving number next to his name. He looks at home on the big stage, which can often prove frightful for younger players.

Although Sinner speaks about the “long road” that represents his career, he is breezing down it with nothing impeding his progress. Three years ago, the San Candido-native was outside the top 1,500 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Two years ago, he was World No. 322. This time last season, Sinner was still more than six months away from his Top 50 breakthrough. Now, he is on the doorstep of the Top 20, which he will storm through with a victory against Andrey Rublev or Hubert Hurkacz on Sunday.

“It feels great obviously, but as I always say, I’m 19. The road to have this big name is long. It’s not done in one week or tournament. It’s a long process to come there,” Sinner said. “I think it’s nice to play [in the] final here in Miami, but it doesn’t mean anything, that you are going to win other tournaments. The road is long. I know it. My team knows that.”

Many players in Sinner’s position would be overcome with emotion, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either. When fellow #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti had a dream week in Acapulco last month, he often fell to the court in celebration. Sinner, however, is a young man zoned in on his mission, not reflecting on his growth.

“You don’t think about playing big tournaments [at] that point because the road is long, your ranking is not there. And then, sometimes you feel good in some weeks,” Sinner said. “Here I felt well from the beginning of the week on court. I think obviously it’s a great result here, but first I have one more match in front of me.”

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