2021 Miami Open ATP/WTA Tuesday Matches
Things are getting spicy in Miami. The fans are starting to get wild, players are hitting emotional and physical walls in their matches, and Medvedev has retreated to his hotel bathroom to debate shaving his moustache. Some non-tennis news that I am excited about is the completion of the private competition feature on the Degensclub site. We’re still running weekly picking competitions, but now you can create your own private competitons to compete against your friends/coworkers/sworn enemy tortoises that live across town and call you Soggy McPondington. You can choose which leagues to include (just tennis and the major soccer leagues right now, but NFL and NBA odds are coming), what rules the comp will follow, and what the duration of the comp is. It’s a pretty cool feature and the developers are working hard on it to provide more features/options so that we all can have the fun of predicting ze future without losing money doing it. Check it out!
ATP Singles :
A quick note before the ATP writeup. I’ve been shortening player’s names at times, and recently someone reached out to let me know that the abbreviation of Khachanov’s name I’d been using is considered a slur in some Russian cultures. I’m thankful they reached out, and I’d like to apologize to anyone who’s been reading. Learning about other cultures and languages always lets us grow a little, and as a fan of the tour I should put a little more effort into understanding those cultures and be a bit less lazy about spelling their names. However, I still will be calling Shapovalov Shufflepuff for the foreseeable future. Thank you, and finally, here are some thoughts about tennis.
Moustachevedeache vs Popyrin :
Medvedev is real real good. Alexei Popyrin was points away from winning this, and never truly believed. He played a great first set, and had 0-30 on Medvedev’s serve late in the first, but Medvedev reeled him back in. Popyrin lost focus in the tiebreaker and made a number of errors, and in the second he went down a break and this match looked over. A late break back and a tiebreaker that saw Popyrin connect with the balls he missed in the first brought up a very strange third set. After the second set they cut to crowd noise and we were treated to a “F^&% yeah Alex!” followed by “F^^$ you, sinner, you’re a nobody!” I’m not 100% on the second phrase, but I think it’s delightful that someone got drunk enough to think Medvedev was Jannik Sinner. As Medvedev neared the finish line, his calves started cramping. As painful as it was for him, it made for some ridiculously entertaining tennis. At the end, he could barely walk, and couldn’t bend his legs, yet somehow he won rallies against Popyrin. The serve left him but with his height he was still able to produce errors from Popyrin on returns. Popyrin really missed an opportunity here by playing passive “just make it in” tennis at the end. An injured opponent can hit the ball back, but they can’t react defensively. Even if you miss 2 and make 1, that effort to get to the 1 can significantly press your opponent’s malady.
It was a rare situation, and there’s no way to know how different it would go anyway, so the main takeaway is that Medvedev’s not dealing with the heat in a great way, and that Popyrin is getting very close to being a top player without realizing it. A rarer situation popped up in the Lajovic Tiafoe match. Tiafoe was up 0-40 to start this one and things seemed like they’d follow the prematch odds which made Tiafoe a 2 to 1 favorite. Lajovic held, and from there he took off. Tiafoe made the rally ball errors which have become his trademark, and basically got run around the court until he was down 6-1. He saved numerous break points in the second, including 15-40 at 4-4 and 5-5. After basically being on the losing end for an hour, Tiafoe then broke Lajovic and celebrated like only Tiafoe can. Winning 1/8th of the match was frustrating enough, but the renewed confidence led Tiafoe to start playing more aggressive, and his forehand fired very well in the third. He really is excellent at creating a bigger angle than his opponent in that crosscourt forehand to forehand exchange, and his commitment to getting to net doesn’t always work out but doing so late in a match has been a good strategy for him. Lajovic smashed a few racquets on his way out, and one of the things he was most frustrated by was that on set point in the second, Tiafoe hit an inside out forehand and the crowd shrieked as if the point was over. Lajovic hit half a shot as a result and Tiafoe hit the open court for an easy point against a distracted Dusan. The obligatory “Ladies and Gentleman please wait for the point to be over” was issued from the ref, but the Miami crowd is often drunk and rarely unbiased, so I’m pretty sure they’re happy with their decision.
Can Tiafoe play with Medvedev? The answer is really dependent on Med’s ability to recover. The tour physios have access to the real good stuff, so I’m assuming Daniil is on an IV of fluids which can really make your recovery happen in a few hours. It’s still going to be a test of his legs though, as Tiafoe is serving well and pretty quick. The problem is that while Lajovic lost his level late, he earns all his points. Medvedev is going to net a lot of easy points on his serve, and the balls that Lajovic was unable to get are simple returns for Daniil. Tiafoe’s errors are the wrong recipe against Medvedev, but Med’s physical condition are the big question. I expect him to withdraw if he isn’t up to it, so if he takes the court I think we see Medvedev in 2.
Bautista-Agut vs Isner :
Cheering against Isner for me is mostly because his matches are not that entertaining. I love great rallies, and I dislike people who dribble the ball between their legs. The worst part about it is that this surface suits Isner so well. His serves are getting a ton of height out-wide, and he’s playing a guy who he’s had good success against and who also isn’t having his usual automatic win season. RBA and Struff could have gone either way, and while RBA is a great returner, he’ll want to get early breaks here as his lack of consistent wins will make him a bit gunshy late in sets. A tiebreaker against a guy like Isner is just a bad place to wind up. This will be the first time in a while that Isner has played this many matches, and the win against FAA was a very emotional affair. It’s the same boring writeup every time Isner plays. Will he struggle on serve? If so then yes he loses convincingly. Will he thump aces that only Djokovic, Nadal from 30 feet behind the baseline, or Federer somehow just by guessing right can return? Possibly. I tend to think that RBA will get the job done as his return position tends to be pretty close to the baseline and that is necessary to cut off Isner’s angle, but with Isner’s history of wins against RBA this is a bit closer than the -200 pricetag for RBA would suggest. RBA in 3.
Sinner vs Ruusuvuori :
Ymer and Ruusuvuori played a really interesting contest. Ruusvuori struggled early to find points, and Ymer’s speed looked to be the different maker, but once Ymer had gained control, he struggled greatly to find offense of his own. Ruusuvuori’s forehand and backhand get into stretches where he simply doesn’t miss shots, and as good as Ymer defended, he looked completely exhausted by the third set. This is the sort of tennis that Ruusuvuori has been showing us in glimpses, and it’s great to see him winning matches. The next contest is juicy also, as him and Sinner may be the two players who are hitting the ball the sharpest so far.
Sinner and Khachanov is always going to be great, and this one was no different. Khachanov has a rare ability to defend Sinner’s power with his backhand, keeping the ball low and really making him work for points. Early in this one, Sinner seemed pretty fatigued and was doubled over. At one point, he struggled to even spit into a garbage and had to let gravity do most of the work. This has been on display before by Jannik, and I’m starting to believe he’s playing a bit of possum at times, because his level improved as the match went on. Despite outward signs of fatigue, he ran down ball after ball after ball, and when the matches got late, he turned up the juice on both wings. When Sinner is playing hard, it looks like he’s hitting the ball faster than anyone else in the tournament, and Khachanov fought hard but ended up spending most of this match playing defense. Late in the third, some very unfortunate letcords went against Khachanov, and Sinner made a get on a half-volley that was some next level speed. The speed and pace of shot are something that Ruusvuori hasn’t really faced except against Zverev in the first set. To Emil’s credit, he has been very error free on his backhand and forehand, but the Ymer Ruusuvuori match was a few levels below the Khachanov Sinner one. Sinner’s ability to serve big should be a small edge in this. Sinner in 2-3.
Fritz vs Bublik :
Taylor Fritz, we meet again. Despite money flooding in nonstop on Cam Norrie, he was not able to cross the finish line here. Books seemed to be aware of Fritz’ quality following his win over Giron, as the line dropped from -175 to -135 but was frozen there for quite some time. The $ kept coming in on Norrie, but books wouldn’t let players grab Fritz at a premium. Fritz’ serve made a big difference here, and despite some stretches where he was just not engaged and mostly smirking at his box after errors, he was able to use his big forehand to keep control of rallies when it counted, and broke early in both sets he won. It’s times like this when I wonder if putting the apostrophe after a Z is even the correct usage. Google says it isn’t. Well, I’m learning a lot today about different cultures, so I apologize again.
Bublik was down 3-0 and 15-40 on his own serve in the second against Duckworth, but this is no problem for the “when I feel like it” champion. He has such variety and skill, but it reminds me a bit of Paire where the real strength is how good his serve is. You can do a lot of strange things in return games when you know you’re likely to hold serve with ease, and Bublik is delightful to watch when he’s making an effort. Despite a number of bailout dropshots being his favorite, he has an excellent baseline game and Duckworth wasn’t really able to find dominance there as he did against Goffin. For this next match, Bublik will likely have a harder time breaking serve. Fritz and Bublik is a dead-even contest for me, but Bublik’s fatigue in the second will result on a lost set against Fritz, so he needs to have fewer lapses. Popyrin, Paul, Sinner, Travaglia; a number of Bublik’s recent losses have been against guys with the big serve big forehand combo. When Fritz is on, which he is this week, he sits right in that group. Bublik has won 2 in a row against Fritz, but this is Taylor’s best chance so far to reverse the trend. Also, Taylor’s middle name is Harry, so does this mean he is secretly a wizard? If you say no, explain how he is able to stay on tour when he barely ever wins a match? It hurts to pick Fritz in this one, but he’s been a tiny bit better so far. Fritz in 3.
Schwartzman vs Korda :
A sad day today in Narnia, as Aslan finally fell. Karatsev seemed to struggle against Korda, and it was something that seemed to be coming before the match. Karatsev opened at -500 in some places, and closed at around -250. That is a huuuuuuge movement, and given Korda’s middling performance for half of the match against Fognini, this was a generous gift. Korda has another winnable match here against Diego Schwartzman, but his mobility will be called very much into question. Diego has outlasted many a server in his career, and he will be relatively fresh after Mannarino struggled to really have any effect on Schwartzman, who usually goes by “Cool Rappin Turtle” after a brief stint on a TV pilot I made up last season before it got cancelled due to Zverev being a knob. Korda’s serve is sure to make this close, but Diego’s ability to drag out rallies can wear down opponents who want to keep points short, and he’s one of the best returners on tour as far as break percentage year after year, occasionally falling short to only Djokovic and Nadal. Coincidentally, Karatsev entered Miami, and the big 4 all withdrew? Hmm. If Schwartzman can get a read on Korda’s serve, I think he wins this in 2.
Cilic vs Rublev :
Cilic is back! This has been so refreshing to see. Watching Cilic lose is frustrating, but his struggles lasted way too long, and honestly I forgot just how awesome he can be when he gets in a rhythm. The run is likely over, but this should be very entertaining contest with Rublev. Rublev was just extremely solid against Fucsovics, who is back to running into top players all the time, but at least is getting to win a few rounds first. Hopefully since he won’t be playing Federer and Djokovic in the 2nd round all the time, his ranking will continue to rise and he’ll get a chance to open up his game. A lot of the players on tour play very regimented and serious all the time, but it’s only because they have to make the most of every opportunity. Once your position on tour is safe, that’s when you really see great offense and creativity flow.
There’s a slight chance that Cilic can win here, but it will require him to jump levels and to serve very well. It’ll be a good spot for him to swing free and a good building point for the rest of his season. He’s a past Wimbledon finalist and has made finals on clay also so this will be a good stretch for him. Rublev probably in 2. He really is that good.
Hurkacz vs Raonic :
Shapovalov didn’t play so poorly, but he wasn’t at his best this event. The result was a great win for Hurkacz, who matches up well against Shapovalov, and needs these type of wins against his contemporaries to build his confidence. He is very solid when his movement isn’t challenged and he has a cannon of a serve. He loses because he’s willing to trade without moving back, and that leads to errors. It’ll be interesting to see the end product, and while Raonic is playing great, this isn’t out of the question for Hurkacz. Raonic was very good against Humbert, really struggling in just two service games. During rallies, he wasn’t desparate to escape and hit his forehand with pace and good depth. His backhand slice wasn’t perfect, but he kept himself in rallies with it and ended up getting the final break by forcing Humbert into smaller and smaller margins. Raonic on these courts is very difficult, and Humbert is around as good as Hurkacz, but with a smaller serve, so I expect a similar result. Raonic in 2 tight sets.
Sonego vs Tsitsipas :
This guy Sonego has some great great ability. Down 4-2 and facing a very motivated and free-swinging Galan, Sonego dug in and stopped missing. His forehand is the biggest weapon in his game, and his frequency of dropshot/power was really effective in neutralizing Galan’s speed. Tsitsipas had one of the hardest matches of the day, as Nishikori really played well. His backhand on the run is one of the most beautiful things in tennis, and despite his serving woes he was able to achieve a number of tough holds to win the second. Tsitsipas sometimes struggles with length, but he really gets better as matches go on, displaying similar strength to Tiafoe in this one. Nishikori faded a little, and never got another look at this. Tsitsipas’ serve started improving, and google says I used that apostrophe right, so it looks like I’ve started improving also.
Sonego will need to put on an offensive performance that is at the peak of his ability, but he is capable of this. The problem will be that in rallies Tsitsipas’ defending to the forehand side is a huge strength of his and Sonego’s inside in forehand is one of his favorite shots. Tsitsipas’ defense nets him this one, and he’s likely to do well in the backhand to backhand exchanges also.
WTA Singles :
Barty vs Sabalenka :
I didn’t notice this was the next matchup, but this is an awesome match. Sabalenka has won this a few times in the past, but Barty played a great match against Azarenka. Down 6-1, Azarenka somehow turned the tides and evened the score with a 6-1 win of her own. In the third Azarenka fought hard, getting back to 2-2 after being down 2-0, but Barty upped her level today and Azarenka struggled with her accuracy. Sometimes you aren’t playing that poorly, but your combination of shots just feeds into your opponent winning points. Sometimes players guess right every time, and once you start second-guessing your decisions, you donate a few more points. Righting the ship is always as simple as a deep breath, but Ashleigh Barty is still exceptional at tennis, and she deserved this win.
Sabalenka beat Voundrousova 1 and 2, and that spells trouble for Barty. Barty’s defending is better, and she keeps the ball a bit lower with her slice, but this is a very winnable match for Sabalenka. Barty struggles with the big hitters, and Sabalenka is likely the biggest. Sabalenka will likely have a stretch of errors though, so I think this will be decided in a third set. I tend to think Sabalenka will have an easier time scoring there, as she tends to finish matches at her best. Sabalenka in 3.
Svitolina vs Sevastova :
Svitolina outlasted Kvitova in a great quality match. I didn’t think Svitolina could negate Kvitova’s serving on these quick courts but she found a way after a very lopsided first set. I am really trying to work on not rushing through the last match of the day. It’s tough though. Sevastova and Konjuh was a match I was very excited about, but Sevastova was pretty dominant from start to finish. She gave away very few errors and Konjuh was unable to play the consistent tennis that saw her past Swiatek. Some amount of fatigue, and a whole lot of Sevastova defending got the job done, and although Svitolina seems like a higher level player, Sevastova has won a few of their meetings. Sevastova is also playing at a great level, and Svitolina just played a very long match. I expect her to recover fairly well, and that this will be a very close match. Both can hang in rallies forever, both go through patches of errors and frustration, and neither one really crushes the ball hard enough to run away with this. A perfect matchup really. I lean Svitolina in 3 just because of how well she’s played this year, and how long Konjuh dragged out the match with Sevastova even though she was playing poorly. Svitolina in 3.