As the Miami Open field contracts towards the final, two ‘youngsters’ are prepared to upset the party of eight who have successfully negotiated their way into the quarter-finals of the first Masters 1000 of the season.
It was definitely a tough match,. A lot of great points, some of them he won, some of them I won… The serve helped me a lot today, especially in the second set. Daniil Medvedev
Only one of the group has been previously successful in winning at this level so there is plenty at stake for the remainder who are keen to make up for the deficiency in their C.V.s.
And that is Daniil Medvedev who, as the top seed, is favourite to add to the three he has already pocketed at this level, but he is being pressed by his Russian compatriot Andrey Rublev and the second seed from Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas as well as the experienced Spaniard, Robert Bautista Agut, plus the lesser-known Alexander Bublik from Kazhakstan, Poland’s Hubert Hurkatcz and the two youngsters with great futures, American Sebastian Korda and the teenage Jannik Sinner from Italy.
It’s a great mix and the next two rounds could well be very revealing.
Medvedev, who suffered badly from cramp during his third- round victory against Alexei Popyrin showed no signs of problems during his 92-minute 6-4 6-3 dispatch of Frances Tiafoe in the round of 16.
The match itself was of a high standard fought from the back of the court with some extensive exchanges with Medvedev on the defensive more often than not, as Tiafoe kept up an aggressive approach. Unfortunately for the America, Medvedev was able to make the breaks late in each set.
“It was definitely a tough match,” the Russian said following his win. “A lot of great points, some of them he won, some of them I won… The serve helped me a lot today, especially in the second set.”
Tiafoe, who needed a medical timeout to deal with an upset stomach and a racing heart, was disappointed at his loss while being quite proud of what he and his fellow Americans had achieved during the week.
“I just kept pushing, but it hit me hard at 2-1 being up a break, I couldn’t really breathe, my heart was beating out of my chest, I was burping a lot, couldn’t settle myself,” Tiafoe said.
“I burp a lot, but today was out of control. It’s something I need to take care of because on a day like today it hurt me.”
Medvedev, who is chasing his 11th title, is currently on a 17-2 win-loss record for the season, will be facing Bautista Agut for a place in the semi-finals. He opened the day’s proceedings on Grandstand by downing John Isner, the big serving American after saving a match-point, 6-3 4-6 7-6(7) in the two-hours and 18-minutes of play.
“He makes always difficult matches playing against him,” Bautista Agut said later. “He has a very big serve and a lot of power from baseline with the forehand. It makes it always difficult, no?”
Bautista Agut holds a 12-2 win/los record against the top seed which doesn’t bother a confident Medvedev too much.
“I don’t really care about ATP Head2Head, because it is always a new match. We saw some with Roger [Federer]when he is like 15-0 against someone and the guy finally gets a win in maybe an important match.
“I am just looking forward to tomorrow. Roberto is a hell of a player. I feel like sometimes, when I have practised with him and played against him, that his ranking should be higher. There are reasons why it is not, and I am going to try to do something with it tomorrow.”
He won’t be the only one trying his best for Sebastian Korda – a name many will recognise – is well on his way to emulating his father’s successful tennis career which included the 1998 Australian Open title and rising to N.2 in word terms.
Representing the US rather than his father’s homeland of the Czech Republic, ‘Sebi’ Korda, 20, has risen 125 spots on the rankings and currently sits at 87 as the youngest US player in the top 100, but expect him to rise dramatically over the next few weeks.
In Miami he has collected some memorable scalps including Fabio Fognini and the in-form Aslan Karatsev this year before taking on Diego Schwartzman whom he outlasted over two and a half hours to defeat 6-3 4-6 7-5.
The youngster credits his parents, and former players Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek for helping him fulfil his potential. He has even hit with the great Steffi Graf whom, he says, is still an incredible player.
“I’d say I have one of the best teams around me experience-wise,” Korda said. “I mean, I have my dad who was a Grand Slam champion, No. 2 in the world, my mom who was a top 30 player, Radek Stepanek who is like my brother who was 8 in the world, we are always in contact. And then to have a friend and mentor as Andre Agassi, I mean, I don’t think you can have a better team.”
He pointed out Agassi in particular, saying they have often dined out together.
“He’s been a super big help for me and my mentality on court. All I’m trying to do is just kind of keep my ears open and listen to as much of it; and hopefully I can take it and then do something with it.”
How Korda will fare against Rublev, who swept Marin Cilic aside 6-4 6-4, when they meet in their quarter-final is one of the intriguing questions the line-up has thrown up.
The other is Jannik Sinner, the 19-year-old Italian who is in fact the youngest player in the top 100 and winner of the Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne. He faces Bublik, the powerful Kazak, for a place in the semi-final having defeated Finland’s rising star, Emil Ruusuvuori 6-3 6-2; Bublik beat American Taylor Fritz 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4 for his quarter-final place.
The final quarter-final clash pitches Tsitsipas, who is more than happy with his form, against Hubert Hurkacz, the Greek having battled over 91-minutes, past Italian Lorenzo Sonego – another new youngster bursting onto the world stage – 6-2 7-6(2)
“I’m playing well, feeling well, and enjoying these moments on the court,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m thrilled to be playing the way I’m playing. I’m having a great impact with my game so far this week, so it’s important for me to capitalise on that.”
The Miami Open presented by Itau quarter-final line-up is certainly full of promise !