Ruusuvuori Survives Big Battle Against Alcaraz

Emil Ruusuvuori (photo: courtesy of ATP video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 25, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Wednesday evening’s final match on Court 1 at the Miami Open presented by Itaú, a #NextGenATP battle between Spanish 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori, 21, didn’t disappoint. This time, the 83rd-ranked Ruusuvuori won 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. Next time, the result could easily be reversed in the No. 132 Alcaraz’s favor. One thing’s certain, this is a spirited rivalry that’s got plenty of staying power for years to come.

For a little more than two hours, in front of just a handful of spectators at Hard Rock Stadium but lots more tuned in worldwide – watching via TV broadcast and online streaming – the two battled. Alcaraz was making his ATP Masters 1000 debut, while Ruusuvuori was playing Miami for the first time. They split the first two sets, with Ruusuvuori winning the first 6-4, while the wild card Alcaraz rebounded to prevail in the second 6-2. It came down to a one-set winner-take-all with a second-round meeting against No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev going to the survivor.

In the final set, on serve at 2-1, Alcaraz broke Ruusuvuori to go ahead 3-1, but was broken right back in the next game. Then, the two rising stars stayed on serve for the next five games until Alcaraz was broken for the third time during the match. Ahead 6-5 and wanting to avoid a final-set tie break, Ruusuvuori served out the win.

Ruusuvuori finished with 16 winners but also hit 47 unforced errors, while Alcaraz put up similar numbers, with 15 winners and 40 unforced errors. Alcaraz outpointed Ruusuvuori 90-87, but the numbers didn’t tell the entire story.

“It was a very tough match,” Ruusuvuori said during an on-court interview after securing his victory. “[Carlos] was playing some serious tennis. For sure, everyone’s going to be hearing from him. … In the end, it was decided by just a few points. This time it went my way.

“I’m very happy to get through and survive. There’s a lot to learn and to get better. To get the win was the most important thing.”

Around Hard Rock Stadium

• The drought is over for Sloane Stephens as the 2017 US Open champion has finally won her first match of 2021, snapping a five-match losing streak dating back to last year. .The 49th-ranked American from south Florida defeated French qualifier Oceane Dodin, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2 to advance against No. 28 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States.

Stephens began the new year 0-4, losing in the first round of four consecutive tournaments and winning just one set. Against Dodin, her luck changed. After dropping the opening set in a tie break, Stephens rallied to win back-to-back sets thanks in part of break Dodin’s serve seven times.

• American Frances Tiafoe was last on the Grandstand Wednesday evening, but it was worth the wait. The 23-year-old American fired 26 winners and saved five of seven break points – including four in the second set – en route to a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory against No. 70 Stefano Travaglia of Italy. Next, the 58th-ranked Tiafoe will play No. 19 seed Dan Evans of Great Britain.

Dubai finalist Lloyd Harris of South Africa, ranked 52nd, reached the second round with a 6-4, 7-6 (7) win over American qualifier Emilio Nava, his first Masters 1000 victory. The match lasted one hour and 32 minutes and it improved Harris’ win-loss record to 9-5 and set up a second-round match against No. 7 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.

“It was a very difficult match,” Harris said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “He is a very tough player. … Overall, I am happy with the way I was mentally during the match. There were a couple of shaky moments here and there, and I hung in mentally and came out with the win.”

• U.S. qualifier Mackenzie McDonald, ranked 120th, overcame No. 67 Vasek Pospisil, both on the court as well as blocking out his on-court ranting after the first set and won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Pospisil could be heard saying: “An hour and a half yesterday, the chair of the ATP f**king screaming at me in a player meeting for trying to unite the players. For an hour and a half. The leader of the ATP. Get him out here. F**king asshole.”

Following Pospisil’s rant, chair umpire Arnaud Gabas said: “That’s enough. If you need to say something to him, then outside this court.” Pospisil replied: “Why am I here? If you want to default me, I’ll gladly sue this whole organization.”

Meanwhile, McDonald’s victory advanced him against No. 16 seed and fellow American John Isner, who is 2-2 on the season. Isner has only played in Delray Beach, Fla., and last week in Acapulco. He skipped the Australian Swing to stay home with his family.

“Hopefully, I can get this tournament started and try to create some momentum for myself and see what I can do,” Isner said during his pre-tournament virtual press conference on Wednesday. “Physically, I’m healthy, mentally I feel pretty fresh. I’ll just need to try to get off to a good start and see what I can do from there.”

• Battle of Americans goes to No. 88 Marcos Giron, who defeated 53rd-ranked Tommy Paul, 7-6 (5), 6-4 to reach the second round against No. 22 Taylor Fritz of the United States.

• Qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova of Belarus outlasted Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3 to advanced against No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Laura Siegemund of Germany has withdrawn from both singles and doubles due to a right knee injury. Thus, her second-round opponent, No. 14 seed Victoria Azarenka, will advance to the third round by walkover and will face either No. 24 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany or qualifier Renata Zarazua from Mexico.

Wednesday’s Miami Open results – WTA

Wednesday’s Miami Open results – ATP

Thursday’s Miami Open order of play

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Garbiñe Muguruza, who has been coming to the Miami Open long enough to have played both at the old site, Crandon Park in Key Biscayne as well as Hard Rock Stadium, on the differences and if she has a preference for one or the other:

“I played many more times in Key Biscayne. That was a very special place for me, as it was kind of my breakthrough. But I will support the decision from bringing it here since we have more space and the tournament can grow more. But I do feel that playing on the beach makes it more fun and beautiful.”

Tennis TourTalk also asked Muguruza how she spent her downtime after winning Dubai earlier this month. “Actually, I did a quick stop in Madrid, in Spain.Yeah, very short. So, then I came early to Miami. I wanted to enjoy also some free time here because I love it, just to reconnect with the Latin people, I don’t know, see a couple of friends, have nice trainings in the beach. Yeah, not a lot of free time, I would say. I was very excited to come back pretty quickly to Miami.”

Victoria Azarenka on the current depth of women’s tennis:

“I feel like the depth is growing. I will look a bit further in the last 10 years the depth and how strong the women’s tennis is becoming. It’s very visible because right from the first matches on, you have to be 100 percent ready. There are a lot of girls who are able to produce such a high level of tennis.

“I think sometimes for some young players it’s a bit more difficult to have the consistency. But on any given day you know it can be dangerous, and the level is going to be high. That sometimes is kind of like a battle that you have in front of you. But, overall, the depth of the game, the quality and the level of the game is raising, especially physically.”

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What they’re sharing on social media

Elise Mertens / For a good cause 

Reilly Opelka / Channeling Bill Walton