The absence of the Big Three from this year’s Miami Masters’ draw has meant that it isn’t as intimidating as it could have been! But it also provides an insight as to how draws could well look in the future when Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal finally put up their rackets or their games deteriorate sufficiently for them not to be considered threats.
There is going to be a time in the future where this is going to be more frequent and happening more regularly, and maybe even a standard soon. So, yeah, we get a taste of how it is playing without them. Stefanos Tsitsipas
That is certainly the view of Stefanos Tsitsipas which he made public following his comfortable 6-1 6-4 defeat of Damir Dzumhur at the Miami Open presented by ITAU.
“It’s a first test to see how it is playing without them,” Tsitsipas, the second seed, said after his third-round victory Saturday. “There is going to be a time in the future where this is going to be more frequent and happening more regularly, and maybe even a standard soon. So, yeah, we get a taste of how it is playing without them.”
Tstsipas is one of those players who hopes to take full advantage of the situation and his opening round win sets the tone. He dominated Dzumhur with his serve, holding it throughout without offering any break opportunities.
The 22-year-old Greek, coming off a runner-up finish at Acapulco last week, hit 10 of his 18 winners off his forehand and committed only nine unforced errors as he relentlessly pressured his opponent.
“There isn’t much I can tell you. It was a great match,” Tsitsipas said. “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.
“I created lot of opportunities with my serve, finding the right angles and executing it perfectly. Even with my second serve I felt like I did a lot of damage, not giving him a chance to press first and apply pressure with his shots.”
The three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist next faces Japanese 28th seed Kei Nishikori, who outlasted Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 6-4.
One of the most interesting players to have ‘arrived’ on the tennis circuit is the 27-year-old Russian Aslan Karatsev who prior to this year, was basically an unknown.
Now he is much sought after and continues to impress. Seeded 17 he defeated Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-4 6-3 to extend his run for the season to 13 wins against two losses and rising from 112 in the rankings to crash into the top 30 within three months at 27.
Playing in his first Masters 1000 event, Karatsev broke serve four times and turned around an early deficit to win in an hour and 20-minutes where he will face Sebastian Korda, the 20-year-old son of Petra Korda, a former Australian Open champion, in the third round, Korda having beaten the 10th seeded Fabio Fognini 1-6 6-4 6-2.
“It was a really tough, tight match. To play your first match against Kukushkin is not easy; he’s a tough opponent,” Karatsev, last week’s Dubai champion, said in his on-court interview.
“The courts are more slow here compared to last week in Dubai, so you have to adjust. The first match is always tough, but I found a way to beat him.”
His confidence has grown since he made the semi-finals of the Australian Open and won his first title last week.
“Of course it gives me confidence to win my first title, but you arrive here and it’s a different surface and new tournament,” Karatsev said. “So you try [to think of it] as a new tournament and new place, but of course it gives me a lot of confidence.”
His rise has been spectacular, So much so he doesn’t have a clothing sponsor and relied on some adidas clothing provided by Mischa Zverev in Melbourne.
Some years back he had an association with the company so was quite happy to renew it but hasn’t signed up as there are now a number of companies wishing to put him on contract.
“I was in the locker room packing my bag after the match and Mischa just asked me if I needed some t-shirts and I said ‘okay’ I also play with adidas so I took it. I had a contract with adidas five years ago so I still had plenty of clothes, but they were not the latest model,” he related recently
“Maybe he saw that I played with the old ones.”
In other Miami action on Day 4, two other title contenders, fourth seeded Russian Andrey Rublev and the Canadian Denis Shapovalov, seeded six, advanced in the night matches which were disrupted by rain.
Rublev missed three match points in the final game against American Tennys Sandgren when rain interrupted play for one hour but on their return completed his 6-1 6-2 victory.
Shapovalov also endured a rain interruption in the third set before finishing off Belarussian Ilya Ivashka 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 after three-hours and 18-minutes.
Also through are Croatia’s Marin Cilic who rallied to edge out the 13th seed from Chile, Cristian Garin 3-6 7-5 7-6(5) and Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, the fifth seed who beat Yasutak Uchiyama of Japan 6-3. 6-3