Mar 28, 2021

2021 Miami Open ATP Round 3 Matches

A bit of sky-water (or rain as the Americans call it) has fallen and suspended matches, so a few are missing from this. There were a lot of wild results but we can always rely on Karatsev to win every single match forever and ever amen.

Medvedev vs Popyrin :

Medvedev recently texted me this haiku when asked for comment about his chances in Miami :

Defensive prowess,
was never the whole story,
check out my moustache.

Medvedev is already making media waves for his moustache, and in a time where real bad moustaches is considered trendy, I fully support him. For me, anyone I know without a moustache + a moustache = evil that person. Evil Medvedev played great against Yen Hsun Lu, hitting a number of clean winners and just clearly punching in another weight class. Despite being evil, he shook hands after the match. Now he plays Popyrin, who has no moustache. This is a better situation for Popyrin than their AO meeting which Medvedev won in straight sets. These courts are quick, Popyrin has already had two good matches returning big serves, and his forehand is firing as good as it ever has. He may be able to make some inroads here as a result, or at least make the scoreline respectable. Evil Medvedev is getting to the point though where his losses are mostly situational carelessness (i don’t like clay, i don’t like playing indoors). Can he lose to Popyrin in a 2/3 structure if Popyrin gets hot? Sure. His defending and serving are world-class though, so it would take a Sonego/Djokovic type performance, and for predictions I don’t really like that concept. Medvedev in 2 very high quality sets.

Tiafoe vs Lajovic :

The backhand slice is a great thing to extend rallies where your court position has become poor. The problem is that if your opponent avoids errors, and is patient, they can safely open up the inside out angle until you are in a constant guessing game of when they’ll finally go down the line. Evans earned the errors in the 1st set tiebreaker but spent so much of this match defending with his backhand against Tiafoe’s forehand that really it seemed inevitable that he would wear down. A few players last round wound up playing too deep in the court and were punished for it. Tiafoe also has gone from being a guy who makes careless errors to a guy who plays good enough percentage tennis that if you don’t play your own offense, you likely cannot win. Great strides, and these may be matchups he’s won before but they are so important to progress on the tour.

This next match against Lajovic is a tricky one. Where Evans doesn’t really have the power to hit past Tiafoe, Lajovic hits a very heavy ball and will keep you on a string if you allow him time. His serving isn’t great but he gets a good bit of kick on his serve and when he’s on he’s in the top 30-40 range easily. Tiafoe won their last matchup, and is play great here, but I think it’ll be a very similar contest to his match with Evans as far as the scoreline. Lajovic was very good against Escobedo and while he also has a one-handed backhand, he doesn’t use the slice as often and that means the ball will be getting up higher on Tiafoe so running around the forehand is a little bit trickier. Despite the push from Tiafoe recently, this is a letdown spot and there is an interesting trend in Tiafoe’s losses this season. Loss to Norrie (guy who keeps the ball on the court). Loss to Mouter (guy who keeps the ball on the court). Loss to Munar (guy who keeps the ball on the court). Loss to Bagnis (guy who keeps the ball on the court). Loss to Musetti (guy who keeps the ball on the court). Of course everyone on tour is looking to keep the ball in play, but these grinder players have proven to be able to frustrate Tiafoe into some errors as he tries to supply offense. A whole match of offense when the ball is moving quickly is very tough. I think Lajovic will be a bit fresher in the end. Lajovic in 3.

Auger-Alliassime vs Isner :

FAA looked early like he’d struggle with Herbert, but he won fairly easily. Herbert rushed the net on a lot of balls where he thought he had a read on FAA’s forehand, and FAA passed him almost automatically. He’s seeing the ball great, he seems to get taller in between rounds, and he’s taking care of his serve very well despite Herbert getting into a couple of his service games. That’ll be key against Isner, who managed to outlast Mackie McDonald in a very long 3 setter. Mackie had it in control but as he fatigued Isner found good range on his serve out wide and it’s easy against a server to devolve into guessing, but hard to make it actually work.

Felix is a pretty big favorite here, but Isner is always dangerous. This can go to 3 or to tiebreakers so easily, and while Isner has the coordination of a newborn deer he did take some good cuts with his backhand and these are very fast courts that all the American players are familiar with. Despite the possbility of some difficult stretches returning, FAA should have this. Isner found form, but he also hasn’t played two matches in a row in a while, and he may experience a bit of fatigue. FAA in 2.

Struff vs Bautista-Agut :

Is RBA even in Miami? This is starting to feel like Rublev’s run in Qatar. I’d love to know how a guy who started the season off looking almost injured against Albot is faring this week, but I really can’t. RBA looks like the type of guy who buys a hat with the name of the city he’s in on it everywhere he goes. Just a sincere work-hard balanced breakfast type fellow. Even when he bounces his racquet in anger he always catches it before it lands. Struff did well against Berankis, but he classically loses to guys who can defend against his power and unless he’s just competing through injury for 3+ months, RBA should get started here with a win. RBA in 2.

Ruusuvuori vs Ymer :

I tuned in to Zverev/Ruus in the second set. Zverev was rolling and it seemed like he would have a good run in Miami as well. He played one rally from 5 feet behind the baseline. Then he played one from 8. Then 10. For some reason, he stayed there. I doubt his coaches are allowed to really tell him anything, and he definitely thinks he’s brilliant so he likely won’t listen anyway, but so many of his losses in his struggle stretch on tour were from hanging terribly far behind the baseline. You can’t beat anyone from that far back unless your name is Nadal or Thiem. Not only did he give Ruusuvuori easy angles, but Ruus had an extra second on every shot to see where it was going. It basically meant Zverev was unable to hit any winners, and Ruus had no pressure to do anything other than pick his targets. Anyway, Zverev never moved, his box never alerted him, and Ruus gets a great win. It’s nice for him to be on the lucky side of a close match after some rough finishes.

Ymer and Basilashvili traded 13 breaks of serve, and it was really entertaining despite those struggles. Ymer’s speed and defending were able to outlast Basil, and that’ll be what he looks to do against Ruusuvuori also. Given the Fin’s fitness issues in the past, Ymer being an absolute tank of an athlete will be important here. Ruus has a better game in the rally, and a slightly better serve, but it’ll be very hard to score here as well as Ymer’s playing and it is unlikely that Ymer gets lazy and plays this match from deep in the court. I expect another contest with a number of breaks of serve and I do expect this to go three. Just because of the difficulty of winning a match after nabbing a huge upset, I side a bit with Ymer here. Ymer in 3.

Sinner vs Khachanov :

Sinner beat Gaston the way many of us felt Koepfer would. He served well, and his power netted him a ton of errors. Khachanov was similarly comprehensive with Hanfmann, breaking the big server as needed to come through in straights. These two have had some wars already, and Khachanov matches up well against big hitters despite losing some very close matches against them. I expect Sinner to have an edge, but beating Khachanov quickly is out of the question, and as enthusiastic as Khachanov is about competing, and as good as his attitude is, Sinner will need to keep his foot on the gas throughout. Sinner in 3.

Norrie vs Fritz :

How can it be? Dimitrov played significantly better than Norrie but lost. #justdimitrovthings He really is just unfortunate at times, but Norrie held on well in pressure moments and deserves the win. Fritz also won, and these are two players that always bother me when I watch them. Giron managed to play great against Tommy Paul but not find the court at all against Fritz. In Fritz’s defense, he hit his forehand well throughout and served fairly well. This is a match I expect to go the distance, but both of these players can prove useless at any moment. Fritz is the type of dude to try to tear open a bag of skittles too hard and send them flying all over the place. Norrie won the last two meetings, and leads the H2H pretty convincingly. Add in that he’s playing his best tennis in quite some time, and he should site as a small favorite in this matchup. Fritz will need to do a lot more than he did against Giron, but his serving and forehand are great weapons on these courts and it’ll be a few key moments at the end of sets that divide these two. I never pick Fritz to win, but if his backhand holds up he may do so here. That’s a big if, and as good as Norrie is defending this week I’m not 100% sure Fritz won’t struggle to win rallies. Norrie in 3.

Bublik vs Duckworth :

HE CAN’T LOSE TO DUCKWORTH CAN HE? I’m starting to think that Goffin is having long-term issues from Covid, as he really has just been unable to cover the court like he usually does and hasn’t looked terribly surprised by any of these results either. Duckworth is a fine player, but something has to be wrong with Goffin for him to win. I was a bit surprised oddsmakers have set Duckworth so low against Bublik, sitting at around +150. If you replace Bublik with Djere, Duckworth is a pickem, but Bublik was pretty much in control against Djere for the whole match. He broke when he needed to, and when he faced break points he was able to hit that beautiful easy T serve that really only him and Kyrgious are able to produce. I don’t see why he’ll suddenly lose his ability to serve, and as long as he can, he only needs 1 break to breeze through a set. His baseline game isn’t bad at all when he does decide to go to it, and so fatigue is really the only option for Duckworth to win. If he’s able to drag Bublik into long rallies, he will likely thrown in some poor service games as a bit of leg fatigue can really impact your serving. Bublik is a goofball, but he’s been winning and I expect that to continue. Bublik in 2.

Karatsev vs Korda :

Karatsev was actually down 4-2 against Kukushkin and I thought maybe Christmas was over. The next score was 4-4 and Karatsev rolled from there. Up next is a winnable match against Korda, who played a strange contest with Fognini. Fognini started off excellent, challenging Korda’s movement in rallies and returning every serve with ease. Korda seemed unable to hit off his backhand wing, and his forehand found the next on some strange shots. Korda was my favorite pick of the day and it was bizarre to see him suddenly unable to play. In a stranger development, Fognini began making errors in the second. Korda steadied himself though, and Fognini never did. Trying to figure out Fognini is like trying to reason with a cat.

Karatsev Korda is closer on paper I think than it’ll be on the court. Korda played great to end the match but it wasn’t good enough to beat Karatsev. Aslan has a wayyyyy better serve than Fognini and is in great form. His backhand to backhand exchanges are likely to be a safe place to live, and few players are going to beat Karatsev’s forehand right now. If Korda had wo in 2 I’d feel a bit different, but I didn’t love what I saw there and think my guess about Korda’s dominance was partially influenced by how impaired Albot was against him. Karatsev in 2.

Cilic vs Musetti :

Cilic and Garin had a good quality marathon, and again when Cilic is playing well he can beat anyone. Can he do it for two sets in a row though? That’ll be the big ask against Musetti, who will likely come into this as a favorite (from the books) even though Cilic’s history and quality speak for themselves. The slump is real, and Musetti is heading in the opposite direction. Musetti played Paire who did actually play some tennis today, but who also played almost no defense. For Cilic to win he’ll need to avoid the errors. No backhands smoothly crafted into the net, no habitual 1st serve smashed into the net, and patience on point construction. Musetti’s speed and talent make him a very hard player to hit past in 1 or 2 shots, but his speed and passive play do give his opponents control if they’re able to build the points gradually. It feels like I’m building myself up to pick Cilic, I sorta am. I am more hoping for the resurgence of Cilic though than I am expecting it. Musetti is by no means unbeatable, and has faced break points in so many spots and managed to struggle in a number of spots against weaker players, but I make him a slight favorite here. Cilic has played guys without real weapons so far, and I think Musetti is a threat to control his comeback. Musetti in 3.

Hurkacz vs Shapovalov :

Kudla played well which makes Hurkacz’ straight set win even more impressive. It’s great to see him playing well on his backhand wing, and it’s great to see the ball landing in the court. Him and Shapovalov are a similar level of ambitious with the shotmaking, but their results have been wildly different. Shap is regarded as a top player and a threat against anyone, and Hurkacz is celebrated if he actually does beat the players he’s supposed to. The only reason I think this may be close is that playing a contemporary can free up a player, and Hurkacz has two previous wins against Shapovalov. Add in that Shap took a very very long time to squeak past Ivashka, and I think Hurkacz takes at least a set. More than one though I’m unsure of. Kudla played well but he plays very straightforward and Shap’s variety and serving are way stronger and more dangerous. Shapovalov in 3 but the upset is definitely possible (said the hedging hedger hedgingly).

Humbert vs Raonic :

Raonic beat Thompson like he did something. I took a break to make toast and the second set was over before I got back, and I eat toast fast. I’m top 5 fastest toast eating turtles for sure. My strategy is I toast it then I eat it. It’s a good strategy.

Humbert ended Joao Sousa’s epic run, which wasn’t so epic but when you consider how hard he’s struggled to win matches, you learn to celebrate the little things. Speaking of little things, Humbert is a wonderful little frenchish elf of a player. Raonic is in great form and I don’t see a ton of breaks coming, but he also just lost very quickly to a crafty lefty last week, and Humbert’s serving is very much better than Koepfer’s. In rallies I don’t think Raonic will be able to get a lot done. Humbert has a way of putting that extra ball back and when he has an opportunity, he generally manages to find a winner. He reminds me of a more cerebral Shapovalov, and the forehand formation is very similar. The one difference I’d point to is that Shapovalov makes a big show of holding his forehand as if the moon is going to explode because of his fakes, and Humbert actually holds his forehand until his opponent moves. I think I’m uncomfortable backing Raonic here but I also don’t see how Humbert will really make inroads into his service games unless Raonic just throws in a couple doubles or forehand shanks. Expect a few tiebreakers. Humbert in 3.

Galan Riveros vs Sonego :

Since he beat De Minaur, and because I just found out his name includes Riveros, I’m including it. De Minaur and Galan matched up well, and Galan ended up outlasting him which may not be the upset of the tournament but it certainly is Galan’s biggest win on hardcourt. Great to see players working hard and getting rewarded, and since De Minaur has been 100% in matches he “should” win, this was a doubly impressive result. Sonego and Fratangelo played close throughout, but Fratangelo kept waiting for Sonego to make forehand errors and Sonego kept hitting winners. He really plays an impressive style of tennis, and he’ll need to here against Galan who is a similar offensive player to Fratangelo, but a much more difficult defensive test. Fratangelo is as good as he can be, and Galan is still improving. Sonego’s serve will be a big weapon here, and it’s rare that I predict a full match of offense defeating a great defender, but I think again it is hard to back up a big win with another one. Sonego’s 1-2 punch was great today, and I think as this match drags on it’ll be very good to have in his pocket. Sonego in 3.

Nishikori vs Tsitsipas :

Nishikori and Bedene looked like they were made for each other, playing an extremely tight 3 sets. This is what we came for though, and why everyone has been pulling so hard for Nishikori to cement his comeback. The past greats playing the current challengers is always the best tennis, and I think despite Tsitsipas’ clear advantages on the serve, forehand, and current form, that this will be a close one. How can I disregard everything though? The answer is : I’m secretly Kei Nishikori. Here I sit, collar popped, Uniqlo personal wellness pod surrounding me, confused expression on my face, 1st serve comfortably into the net. The real reason though is that Nishikori’s game in the rally is very very sticky, and Tsitsipas has just played a very distracting match against Dzumhur. He didn’t have to do much to score points, and he was winning so easily in the 1st that he actually slumped a bit in the second. I used to beg tournament directors not to give me an easy first round for this exact reason. It is just a wild change of pace when you go from Dzumhur to Nishikori, and I think that Tsitsipas is still prone to late-set struggles. Nishikori can elevate his game and outlast Tsitsipas, but it’ll be extremely hard for him to hold serve also. His service has always been poor, and he’s another PCB who starts every service game at duece. I started this off thinking I like Nishikori’s chances, but I’m really not sure of that anymore. Tsitsipas in 2 close sets.