Opportunity Knocks For Tsitsipas At Miami Open

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: courtesy of Miami Open presented by Itaú video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 27, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Following his run to the final last week in Acapulco, World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas said earlier this week that he views the Miami Open presented by Itaú, devoid of so many marquee names like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem, as an opportunity.

“I won’t lie. It’s an opportunity,” Tsitsipas said earlier this week. “There are plenty of good guys that aren’t in the top five that can play good tennis, as well. I can see them as a threat, too.”

On Saturday, the No. 2 seed Tsitsipas made his 2021 Miami Open debut a good one. The rising Greek star beat lucky 126th-ranked loser Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 6-1, 6-4, in 69 minutes. He did not face any break points en route to his 15th victory of the season.

“I don’t see myself as the favorite of the tournament. I like to enter a tournament with low expectations and build my way through. I have a pretty what I would consider difficult road despite all of this. I have matches that I will really have to fight hard and give out my best. With a lack of spectators, it’s going to feel a little bit different. …

“Generally speaking, yeah, it’s an opportunity. I can see it that way. Let’s hope for the best. Let’s hope I can take advantage of this and add some points. Miami last year – two years ago, didn’t offer a lot of points to my ranking, so I think I made the fourth round. That is definitely a better opportunity for me to do better this year.”

Against Dzumhur, Tsitsipas fired six aces, hit 18 winners and made just nine unforced errors. He won 73 percent of his service points, did not face any break points on his serve and broke Dzumhur three times.

Asked by Tennis TourTalk what he found most satisfying in today’s win, Tsitsipas said: “Well, I would say my consistency, and I was returning and serving well. … It was a great match, especially against a guy that I probably don’t have a good record playing against him in the past.I started the match very strong, breaking him twice and taking a big lead in the score, and I think the things worked out by themself after that.”

Konjuh impressive, upsets No. 15 seed  Swiatek

Coming back from four elbow surgeries and three years of being off the WTA Tour, 338th-ranked wild Ana Konjuh continues to inspire and impress. Saturday afternoon, the 23-year-old Croatian upset No. 15 seed Iga Swiatek, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, in two hours and 14 minutes. Konjuh fired 10 aces, hit 40 winners and kept pressuring the reigning French Open champion into hurrying her returns while piling up the unforced errors, which totaled 21 by the end of the match.

“I didn’t really expect this, to be honest,” Konjuh said during her post-match interview on Court 1. “That’s why my coach was so excited. I know that she’s obviously a great player. I didn’t know her; I didn’t play her before. I’ve been away for quite some time on tour. Hopefully, we’re going to have many more matches like this. …

“It’s been a frustrating last couple of years, with all the surges and comebacks. It just never worked out. To have these matches, to be playing this good at this level just gives me confidence. I still have some work to do. I still want to be where I was.”

Later, during her virtual press conference, the former World No. 20 Konjuh told Tennis TourTalk she was most proud of her fighting spirit. “I’ve been preparing for these kinds of matches during my comeback. I’m really happy to have these match opportunities and to compete on such a high level. I’ve not played Iga before, but she’s a great player, a champion. I knew it was going to be tough,” she said.

“I told myself I knew I had to stay [in the match] and be tested and not give many chances. … I wanted to stay in it in those key moments just to be able to produce some great shots and I did that.”

Halep withdraws with shoulder injury

World No. 3 and third seed Simona Halep withdrew from the Miami Open citing a right shoulder injury. After a first round bye, Halep beat Caroline Garcia, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 in a second-round match Thursday evening. She was scheduled to face Anastasija Sevastova in Saturday’s third round, who now advances to the fourth round and will face wild card Ana Konjoh.

Barty wins matchup of former Roland Garros champions

• World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty advanced to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Jelena Ostapenko in matchup of former Roland Garros champions. The defending Miami Opoen champion Barty hit five aces and won 73 percent of her first-serve points. She saved all but one of the five break points she faced and broke Ostapenko four times in seven tries. Barty outpointed her opponent 63-50 and will face No. 14 seed Victoria Azarenka, who beat No. 24 seed Angelique Kerber, 7-5, 6-2.

“I think today felt like I was a lot sharper and switched on and ready to go from the very first point,” Barty told Tennis TourTalk. “I give myself another opportunity to try and do that again in another match in a couple days’ time. I think that’s probably the most pleasing thing is that each day we continue to learn, each day we continue to grow and continue to try and develop our game and learn from our mistakes, learn from all experiences that we have.”

Saturday’s Miami Open results – WTA

Saturday’s Miami Open results – ATP 

Sunday’s Miami Open order of play

Around the Hard Rock Stadium

A few moments with Naomi Osaka

Late Friday afternoon, following World No. 2 Naomi Osaka’s straight-set win against Ajla Tomljanovic, the second seed from Japan sat for a very well-attended virtual press conference, looking and feeling relaxed, as she took questions from the world media. While she said she was most proud of how she handled her nerves and being able to win in two sets, several questions, including one by Tennis TourTalk, focused on how much input she has with her Nike designs – which, like Serena Williams, differ from other Nike-appareled players – and whether she considered herself to be a “brand” like Williams or Roger Federer.

“Yeah, I take calls with [Nike]. For me, it’s some of the most fun calls that I have. But, yeah, I would say I’m able to have input, which for me is something that is really fun. I don’t know. But I also trust them a lot, too. …

… “I would say I do enjoy interacting with like different brands. It’s sort of educational in a way, because it really gives me like a firsthand look at how everything operates in everything that’s not tennis.”

Osaka the brand? “Not necessarily if you put it like that. I feel like there are some things that I do in a sense of like I want to like cherish my time and like who I align myself with in a way. But I don’t really see myself as a brand. I just see myself as a person that has a lot of really good opportunities, and I just want to be able to pick and choose what I think is going to really stay with me in the future.”

What they’re saying

• Men’s No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev on the story behind his new-look mustache: “There is actually no story. Sometime, I think it was actually like last year in the beginning of the year I was doing a photo shoot and they were shaving me for the photo shoot, and they just left the mustache for a few minutes. I was, like, ‘it’s not too bad.’

“It was a little bit different because they had special shavers and stuff. So, I think it was looking better.Since that time, I always thought, okay, one moment I’m just going to do it, you know, for fun for one tournament or something like this. So probably after Miami I’m going to shave them off, but for this tournament it’s going to be like this and let’s see what people say.”

• Women’s No. 8 seed Bianca Andreescu said Friday evening she longs for a return to life as it used to be, which means being able to enjoy the pleasures of going out eat and taking in a concert. “Yeah, in Australia I got a little bit of a tease of how it would be without a pandemic, which was really nice. And I’m hoping that things will go back to normal ASAP …going to concerts is definitely one of them. Going to a restaurant as usual, for sure, that has to be up there. I mean, you’re going to a restaurant. Sometimes you can’t even get in because there is like maximum capacity, which sucks. What else?

“Going back home and not having to quarantine is up there, as well. Because, I mean, I have all my friends and all my family living there. So that kind of sucks. But I’m hoping for the best and hopefully soon everything can end and we can go back to normal, the new normal.”

Who would Andreescu like to see in concert? “Oh, boy, it’s going to be super crazy. Seeing Drake in concert is always nice. I have never been to a Lil Uzi concert. I really like him as an artist. That would be really sick. Hopefully Rihanna can make some new music, and she can go on a world tour. I’d love to see her. I have never seen her either. So that would be really cool.”

• After his 6-4, 6-4 second-round victory against France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert Friday afternoon, Men’s No. 11 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime was asked about his switch in apparel allegiance from Nike to adidas: “I have been happy since the first day. Honestly, it’s been a great partnership so far.

“You know, everybody at adidas, honestly … I actually had a chance early in the partnership to go and visit the headquarters. I got received there in great fashion. So, I’m happy with how things are going and happy with my game and happy with my partners now. Honestly things are going in the right direction.”

• Women’s No. 23 seed Maria Sakkari, who quietly is into the third round following her second-round win over Arantxa Rus on Friday: “We can still play tennis, while people in Greece are stuck at home, most of them can’t go to their jobs, kids don’t go to school. I can’t complain about anything. I would love to go out, but that is not my biggest problem right now.”

• Men’s No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on the Miami Open atmosphere: “It’s a shame to have such a big, pretty modern, fresh new stadium like the Hard Rock Arena and not take advantage of it regarding the fans. But you can’t really do much about it. It is what it is.”

Still, Tsitsipas was asked if the feeling he gets walking out on court in Miami different than other cities and venues? “I feel like a rock star. That’s due to the Hard Rock Stadium (laughter).”