Apr 03, 2021

2021 Miami Open ATP/WTA Finals

Finals time in Miami so for once I can include the same ATP/WTA round in one post. If you’ve been readin, thanks for reading! 9 out of 10 cartoon owls have positive opinions about reading, and if ya can’t trust cartoon owls, we got biiiiiiiiiiig problems. Somewhere Rublev is squinting at the air, suspicious that it will become wind, but the WTA finals is probably the best one we could hope for. I’m workin on some other projects for the next week or so, but I’ll probably be back for one of the clay Masters events and for sure Rolan Garros.

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Barty vs Andreescu :

A tale of two Barty’s. The struggle performance exhibited against Kucova, and the dominant wins she’s marched out since then are in stark contrast. There’s very little reason to expect her level to drop for the finals, so it’s best to look at her strengths going in. Barty has been near perfect saving break points. Many of these have been saved with aces, providing a hint as to just how comfortable she is getting on these courts. Players certainly improve their timing as an event progresses and since Barty plays a very skillful game it appears that she gets better round by round. Svitolina looked like she had little to no chance to win against Barty unless Barty made unforced errors, and Barty made a handful but really only once she got a bit clear on the scoreboard. The forehand can go away, but the backhand slice looks very difficult to produce offense from.

Andreescu and Sakkari was, for me at least, the match of the season so far. Neither player had a significant edge in this yet both managed to string games together right when they needed them. There wasn’t much separation time in the first, as Andreescu got up 4-1 and in the blink of an eye it was 4-4. It seemed in this one that Sakkari’s movement would likely let her have an easier mental battle since she could transition between offense and defense as needed, but somehow Andreescu was able to extend rallies as well. The first set tiebreaker included 7 minibreaks which feels about right. These two were separated in the end by only 4 points (Sakkari actually scored more with 113) and this really could have gone either way. After being broken at 5-5, an exhausted Andreescu somehow turned things around with an extremely well played break of serve, and in the tiebreaker she jumped out to a very solid 6-2 lead before closing it out. At times the Sakkari comeback seemed like it was a truly amazing story, but it was overshadowed by the depth of quality that Andreescu possesses. Appearing outwardly exhausted, frustrated, and genuinely being outplayed in rallies in the 2nd and 3rd, Andreescu just continued to win all the right points. There is something a bit similar to Serena Williams about Andreescu’s ability to compete to the level necessary in the moment. It speaks to natural instincts and also indicates that she’s able to win a lot of the time on autopilot.

For Sakkari, there is a lot of good to take away from this match. She likely should have won, and she displayed a pretty dominant forehand at times. Her serving has improved a ton, and it is actually ridiculous what good shape she is in. She looks how Marvel makes their superhero’s look via CGI. She seems to overrun the footwork on her backhand at times, ending up kinda swinging behind herself and creating too much angle, but this is something she’ll adjust as she gets used to playing at this pace/intensity. A deviation from being a defensive player instantly makes Sakkari a threat to win all hardcourt events, and with her athleticism and serving she could be a sneaky dangerous player to play in Wimbledon.

For the finals, books have opened Barty at around -197. This seems a bit high to me, but also raises the simple but unanswerable questions regarding this match. One is how will Andreescu recover from that match. An extra day of rest can often make a huge difference, but the 2nd day after leg day or an endurance competition is often worse than the first. The emotional letoff of winning what felt almost like a grand slam semifinals is real, and Andreescu looked like she was ready to falter at times in the 2nd and 3rd, going to an awful lot of bailout dropshots which really didn’t work. The other question is how will Barty deal with Andreecu’s power. Andreescu will struggle to return Barty’s serve at times, but once she’s in a rally she hits the ball a bit harder on both wings than Barty really can. Barty needs to create space with her shot selection, because Andreescu will be able to score points via forced errors with her own power. Defeating Sabalenka means Barty can deal with power, but Bianca is a lot less-error prone than Sabalenka and much more willing to work the point/go back at her opponent. She also isn’t really hitting many aces, but her serving is significantly better than Svitolina’s. It feels as if Andreescu has played the more difficult lineup of players, but Barty has played the bigger names. Barring significant hinderance due to fatigue, Andreescu has enough quality that Barty winning would be an amazing performance. In any event, this is a really great finals for one of the best tournaments of the year. Andreescu in 3.

Sinner vs Hurkacz :

Jannik Sinner is a future #1. It is hard not to agree with this comment that I am seeing all over the place this week. His forehand is unreal consistent, and his backhand gets better as the rallies get deeper. His serve is good enough to get him a ball to work with and that’s generally all he needs . Against RBA Sinner was perfect through the first set but seemed to be making a few more errors than usual. RBA made a great adjustment since their match in Dubai and kept Sinner moving which paid dividends as Sinner missed some shots he normally doesn’t. RBA probably should have had the match over in the 2nd, but as things get late Sinner’s power applies a lot of pressure and RBA had really his first poor service game of the match, going down 0-40 and putting a dropshot into the net to lose the set. RBA went to the dropshot too often in this match, without much success. It seemed like more of a bailout tactic, which is understandable given the work he was having to do to outduel Sinner, but his percentages were not good today. In the third set Sinner went down an early break, but he seems to play a bit more free when a match isn’t on serve, and as he broke back it was a very big momentum swing for RBA to contend with. Although this was a tough match, Sinner will likely be fresh for the finals, so I expect his best.

His best fits in nicely with the significant names that Hurkacz has waded through so far. Beating Shapovalov, Raonic, Tsitsipas, and Rublev will get you to the semis of a major, and in this event through no fault of their own Sinner and Hurkacz have been playing widely different tiers of player. Hurkacz win today came almost out of nowhere, as Rublev’s reaction to the wind seemed similar to a dog noticing it’s tail. He shanked a number of forehands, and genuinely looked out of sorts in the first set. He smashed a few balls, smashed his foot with a racquet, and tried several other strategic anger moves but nothing seemed to work. He had good chances to break in a lot of Hurkacz service games, but he genuinely struggled to avoid errors in this contest. To Hurkacz’s credit, he served very well on some big points and kept pushing Rublev whenever he had a chance. His off-forehand comes with a tricky windup that looks just like his crosscourt forehand and his backhand down the line is sneaky good when he lands it (not so often).

I think a lot of people wanted to see nextgen finals in these big tournaments but NOT LIKE THISSSSSSS! In all seriousness, this was very unexpected from Hurkacz after some very eye-rolling performances over the past season. One of Degensclub’s best competitors Lionheart999 pointed out though that it may be location-dependent. Over his professional career (including challengers) Hurkazc is 230-141 (61.99%). In the US he’s 31-13 (70.45%). He’s won Winston Salem, lost in a QF to Federer at Indian Wells, beat Korda in the finals at Delray Beach earlier this year.

In the finals I think his run will end. As good as beating Rublev is, there were still a number of errors, and when Rublev played well towards the end of the 2nd set Hurkacz did start to look like he’d succumb to the pace at some point. There were a lot of scrambling points and Rublev’s unforced errors resulted in a handful of them. Sinner tends to be pretty automatic with targets, and he is guaranteed to serve better and deal with any wind conditions better than Rublev did. At this point Hurkacz is my ATP Ash Barty; I have expected him to lose every round but he just keeps getting better. I am in for one last hurrah though in doubting him. Sinner has the baseline game to edge Hurkacz and better movement than him also. Hurkacz has a better serve for sure and a big more variety, but Sinner just plays such pure and intelligent tennis. It’s hard to read his swing, and his backhand up the line tends to show up on the biggest points. Sinner and RBA was a higher level match than Rublev and Hurkacz, but this should still be a very entertaining finals. Sinner in 2.