Barty, Svitolina Tame Heat, Advance In Miami

Ashleigh Barty (photo: courtesy of WTA video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 29, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty garnered her ninth straight victory at the Miami Open presented by Itaú dating back to her 2019 title run and reached the quarterfinal round of this year’s tournament Monday afternoon. She tamed both the heat and her opponent, No. 14 seed Victoria Azarenka, 6-1, 1-6, 6-2, in a tussle of Grand Slam champions.

At the same time that the Aussie Barty and Azarenka from Belarus were doing battle on the Grandstand, nearby on Court 1, World No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine rallied from a set down against two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova and beat the 10th-ranked Czech star for just the third time in 10 career head-to-head meetings, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5. Although she was outpointed 103-100, Svitolina hit 20 winners and committed just 12 unforced errors, while Kvitova ended with 42 winners and 27 unforced errors.

Tennis TourTalk asked Svitolina during her virtual press conference what she’s been able to learn from playing Kvitova so many times during her career. She said: “Well, yeah, we played many times, and I think one of my first top-10 wins was against her, so it’s always a big battle to play against her because she strikes the ball very clean and you have to adjust extremely quick. So, I had to, like today was in the first set, okay, I didn’t play my best but still, you know, she was stepping in.

“She was striking the ball extremely good. So, for me, always a big challenge to play against her but also gives me lots of positives from winning those kinds of matches.

“Petra’s a top player. She has great results each year. She always brings the best out of you. That’s why I really enjoy those kinds of battles.”

Next, Svitolina will play unseeded and 57th-ranked Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who ended the surprising run of No. 338 Ana Konjuh of Croatia, 6-1, 7-5, by outpointing her opponent 85-69.

Meanwhile, Barty improved to 2-1 against Azarenka by hitting six aces and 22 winners while breaking the Belarusian five times in 12 tries. The two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka was hindered by 35 unforced errors, including 18 in the final set as Barty put away the round of 16 match on her third match-point opportunity.

“I think the first two sets probably had some pretty big momentum swings, but I think the third set was a real tussle,” Barty told Tennis TourTalk during her virtual press conference. “Particularly through that middle part I think from 1-all, 2-all, 3-2, those games in the third set turned out to be pivotal, but it was just about staying the course and over time trying to execute my game plan as best I can and try and kind of bring it back onto my racquet where I felt I was in control a little bit more in that third set and had a little bit better court position.”

Both Barty and Svitolina were among the first to reach the quarterfinal round of this WTA 1000-series event taking place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens before a reduced-sized crowd of about 1,000 spectators allowed on the grounds each day. Barty’s next opponent will be No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who defeated No. 19 seed Marketa Vondrousova, 6-1, 6-2 in 68 minutes. Sabalenka was dominant and finished with five aces and 28 winners. She broke Vondrousova four times, saved all three break points she faced from the Czech lefty, and outpointed her 63-43.

Early winners on the men’s side included Canadian No. 12 seed Milos Raonic, who defeated No. 20 seed Ugo Humbert of France, 6-4, 7-5. Next, he will face No. 26 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who upset No. 6 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 6-3, 7-6 (6), to reach the round of 16. It was Hurkacz’s 10th win of the season and along with his title at Delray Beach earlier this season, he’s undefeated in Florida this year.

Also, No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, eased past No. 29 seed Marton Fucsovics, 6-2, 6-1, in 52 minutes for his third victory against the Hungarian this month. It was Fucsovic’s 17th Top 10 loss in 18 matches. Next, Rublev, who leads the ATP Tour with 18 victories this season, will play unseeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, the only former Grand Slam champion in this year’s depleted men’s field. The No. 45 Cilic ended the Miami Open debut of 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, ranked 94th, 6-3, 6-4. Musetti, who is the youngest member of the ATP Top 100, was appearing in just his second ATP Masters 1000 event following Rome last year.

By the end of play Monday, the women’s singles quarterfinal pairings will be settled and the men’s round of 16 matchups finalized. As the second week of play began in south Florida, the temperatures remained above 80º Fahrenheit (28º Celsius) and players took caution during changeovers to apply ice packs and use ice towels in order to stay cool and also to drink plenty of electrolytes and water to stay hydrated due to excessive sweating.

Monday’s Miami Open results – WTA

Monday’s Miami Open results – ATP

Tuesday’s Miami Open order of play

Around the Hard Rock Stadium

What they’re sharing with Tennis TourTalk

Lorenzo Musetti, who reached the semifinals at Acapulco earlier this month, then advanced to the third round in the Miami Open before losing to Marin Cilic, on the differences in competition between competing on the ATP Tour and the Challenger Tour: “I think here on the ATP Tour, with players like Marin [Cilic], you do not get a second chance. You have to take the first one. You have to try to keep an eye on every detail – inside the court and outside the court. You are playing the best players. It’s not easy for me. This is the first time I’m playing at this level. I am getting used to it. I’ve learned a lot these two weeks. Now, I will try to put on court what I am learn in practice.”

Ashleigh Barty on adapting to the Miami heat with three matches under her belt: “It is a little bit different this year. The courts are playing a little bit differently. But, I mean, I was prepared to play and ready to play right from the first point of the tournament.

“I’m just excited now that I get to be in another quarterfinal of a big event. We get an opportunity to play another tough match against whoever it may be. I think they are on the court at the moment, but we look forward to it. We look forward to continuing to try and refine our skills.

“I still feel like there is a lot better tennis left out there for me. I still don’t feel like I’m playing my very best just yet, but I’m fighting through and I’m finding ways to win, which is great.”