Mar 31, 2021

2021 Miami Open ATP Quarterfinals/WTA Wednesday Matches

ATP Quarterfinals :
Sinner vs Bublik :

There’s a lot to suggest that Jannik Sinner will be a top ten player. His movement is great for his size, his forehand is huge and consistent, and his backhand looks a little awkward at times but he produces every shot you’d want with it and takes the ball very early. His serving can be a little inconsistent about scoring cheap points but he can dial up some aces when he needs them. He’s a complete player, and it was evident against Ruusuvuori, who acquitted himself well but never really looked like he was ready to take over the match.

Bublik and Fritz had an interesting match. Fritz was griping to the ref early about the underhand serves, saying he was still walking to his return position. Bublik was complaing about lucky bounces for Fritz. Despite their emotional weakness, both played a great match of tennis. Fritz’s forehand was hit well and with depth, and while his backhand had a few errors, he definitely dug in a bit more than usual and played the role of the consistent one to try to induce Bublik errors. To Bublik’s credit, he did the same. It’s interesting to watch two players who are pretty sure that they should win, but don’t quite believe it’s going to happen. The edge in this one was Bublik’s ability to score on his serve. The guy just breezes through service games and it’s similar to Raonic/Kyrgios/Isner where break points can disappear in a few swings.

Sinner is a complete player, and Bublik is an offensive phenom, so the onus of performance here is on Bublik. He can certainly handle himself on serve, but it’s hard to point to a simple formula for taking Sinner out of his game. Bublik has also had lapses in effort in this event, and these mostly look like fatigue. I’m glad he won his match as him and Sinner is a much more entertaining contest, but I’m not sure if he can outlast Sinner for a full match. Sinner in 2.

Medvedev vs Bautista-Agut :

Medvedev looked close to his old self against Tiafoe, who had as good of a tournament as you can really hope for in that section of the draw. For most guys on tour, beating Medvedev isn’t really realistic, because his play at the baseline is just too consistent. His next opponent is the perfect foil to his play though, and RBA has beaten Medvedev on hardcourt in both of their previous meetings. Medvedev is always improving, but the win in 2020 wasn’t so distant in the past. RBA was solid in his match against Isner but gave up a number of mini-breaks in the final tiebreaker, and some of them were uncharacteristic errors. An Isner win would have made the Miami crowd happy, but for fans this RBA Medvedev matchup is a way better reward. It is unlikely that this will be over in any quick fashion, and while Medvedev is a favorite against pretty much anyone outside the top 3, RBA tends to perform well against the same players he has in the past. This is a spot where it’s hard to do anything but predict Medvedev will win, but it would be the first instance where Medvedev beat RBA, Miami is traditionally one of RBA’s best events, and RBA is one of the only guys who is willing to hang in rallies with Medvedev, so this should be good. Medvedev in 3.

Korda vs Rublev :

Sebastian Korda played some very patient tennis to get past Diego Schwartzman. After trading sets, Diego went into super push-mode. He didn’t go for much but he made Korda play a ton of tennis to get over the finish line, and it almost worked. At 5-4 serving for the match Korda sent a few balls long and it looked like the pressure was getting to him. To his credit, he didn’t try to force much in the rally in the next game, and it was Diego who ended up making the errors. Korda always serves well, but he turned up the pace a bit in the last game and closed out. He’s a great talent, but this run at a Masters 1000 level event is so beneficial to his future seeding and to his confidence in these types of high-profile matches. If it isn’t a major, it doesn’t get more high-profile right now than Rublev. Cilic started off his match a bit nervous, but Rublev’s battering of every return really deserves credit as well. Cilic competed, but he was always a minor click behind the pace Rublev plays at, and even though he threatened in some of Rublev’s service games late in the second, Rublev came up with very good serves when he needed to. The guy is a walking meme, but it is ridiculously refreshing to see how he brings it every single time he steps on the court. This is months and months without a lapse in level for him, and that makes him a pretty big favorite against Korda.

Korda has turned in some excellent performances, but Rublev’s ability to generate pace on both wings will be a big step up from Diego’s stable and determined baseline game. Korda is a great server and has a very smooth game, but he doesn’t hit clean winners and Rublev is generally able to hit most returns in play. Rublev in 2.

Hurkacz vs Tsitsipas :

Hurkacz has notched some really impressive wins this week, and he’s been incredibly consistent from the baseline while doing so. His backhand is solid, his forehand is heavy, and he’s putting extra balls in play with a crafty slice. That slice induced a number of errors from Shapovalov, and while Raonic was in pretty much his best form, he was unable to maintain that edge further than 1 set. Tsitsipas was a similar level of impressive against Sonego, who was a bit overmatched in the first and wound up in a lot of uncomfortable spots on the court. Tsitsipas was able to get to net and really pressure him, and it wasn’t until late in the second that Sonego’s offense really started to fire. His dropshots/forehand combo is so hard to predict, and he caught Tsitsipas fading back over and over. The trouble really was that Tsitsipas’ defense and returning were very good, and Sonego’s ability to stay close in the second was due to redlining his game. When you do that, you lose a bit of accuracy, and some backhand angles went wide and some serves were a bit overcooked and led to double-faults.

For Hurkacz to beat Tsitsipas, he needs to not change a thing. He’s already playing his best game, and while he’s certainly not a favorite to defeat the talented plagiarist, he has gotten through so far by playing a maintained level against opponents who had ebbs in their quality. Tsitsipas has looked unbeatable in the first set in all of his matches thus far and struggled to maintain the same lead in the second. It’s tough when you’re winning easily not to fall into hitting more and more ornate shots, and when everything is working it’s hard to remain committed to earning points through work and power. Hard to not think Tsitsipas is good enough to withstand and problem solve Hurkacz game though, and despite earning a lot of points through long rallies, he still has a top 10 serve when he’s landing it in ze box. Tsitsipas in 2 close sets.

WTA Quarterfinals :
Sakkari vs Osaka :

Sakkari continues to win points without really going for much at all. Her fitness and power are pairing nicely with the quick courts and warm conditions to make the idea of beating her seem like more work than players are interested in. She had an excellent quality match with Pegula, who seemed a bit outclassed at times but managed to stage a pretty good comeback. Beating Osaka seemed more likely early in the event, when she turned in half a performance against Tomljanovic. After her solid play against Mertens, this seems like a match where Sakkari’s win will be one of the best of her career, and it’s easy to hope for amazing performances but very rare that you get them. As good as Sakkari is playing, she’ll be able to extend this match, but now the lack of clear offense will be called a bit into question, and since Osaka tends to play to the level of her opponent (3 sets with Boulter but beating Serena in 2 and other things like that) there’s a good chance that she plays well here. It’s rare to say but Osaka is near unbeatable right now if she’s in good form. Osaka in 2.

Andreescu vs Sorribes Tormo :

Andreescu had been working her way back onto the tour, but it’s safe to say after her match with Muguruza that she’s almost back to her peak. She generates such power on both wings, and regularly creates angles that just don’t seem like they’re there. Muguruza didn’t play poorly at all, and made Andreescu play for the whole duration of the match, but at times all she could do was shake her head at the quality that was coming back from across the net. A similar head-shaking affair was the Jabeur Tormo match, which featured more of Tormo putting the ball in play while her opponents offensive ability falters. It really is an incredible run that she’s been on, and I actually thought she’d be too tired in this event after watching her have some fatigue in her legs in an early match, so it’s even wilder that she’s beaten such high quality players with such resilient tactics.

Tormo has made me look foolish two rounds in a row, but I am up for it again. While Muguruza and Tormo don’t have identical games, Tormo is a bit like Muguruza with the power removed. They have similar strategies, and similar point construction. Andreescu has just hit through a similar quality defender who was hitting the ball very solid at her, and so the only way she loses to Sorribes Tormo is if she gets a bit impatient. It certainly can happen, but Andreescu’s serving and power mean that Tormo likely can’t hang as deep in the court as she has been. I do think her slice will earn some mistakes from Andreescu’s forehand after playing a very straightforward “hit hard” encounter with Muguruza, but her coaching team will have someone hitting her slices in her practice session, and it’s hard to see Tormo’s run continuing here. Andreescu in 2.