Pablo Carreno Busta threw his racket into the air in relief as well as celebration after seeing off his longtime nemesis Kevin Anderson, 6-4 5-7 7-6(6) to move into the semi-finals of the Miami Open today on Crandon Park Stadium court.
The 16th seeded Spaniard came into the match with a 0-4 head to head record against the tall South African, with the last defeat taking place just two weeks ago at Indian Wells 4-6 6-3 7-6(6). This time he would not be denied, fighting off a match point in the final set tiebreak having already squandered two in the second set an hour or so earlier.
Carreno Busta took the opening set in 43 minutes by breaking the 6th seeded Anderson in the seventh game to love with a running forehand pass up the line which the lunging South African was unable to control on the backhand volley, and then closing out the set 6-4 on serve with an ace up the centre.
Although Anderson went ahead 2-0 in the second set, courtesy of a double fault on break point by the Spaniard, he dropped his serve immediately when Carreno Busta set up two break points by ripping a forehand cross court pass and converting two points later when Anderson netted a backhand.
With the momentum firmly in his favour, the Spaniard broke again to go ahead 3-2; nailing a backhand up the line into the open court on break point.
It looked as if a comfortable straight sets victory for the Spaniard was going to be a formality as he served 6-4 5-4 40-15, but the stubborn South African was having none of it as he saved both match points in quick succession. A forehand cross court pass followed by a backhand return up the line that had Carreno Busta in all kinds of trouble as his forehand, hit off balance, sent the ball sailing over the baseline brought the score back to deuce. Anderson set up break point with a forehand cross court winner, and the Spaniard’s mishit forehand found the net to bring the score to 5-5.
With Anderson holding comfortably for 6-5, the tension in the serving arm of the nervous Spaniard was palpable as he served two double faults to lose the 53 minute set, 7-5.
Games went with serve in the final set, with the only break point coming at 4-4 on the Anderson serve, set up with an amazing sliced forehand cross court pass played at full stretch by Carreno Busta, followed by a backhand cross court pass. The South African extricated himself with a service winner on break point and held for 5-4 with an ace.
Going into the final set breaker, there was little to choose between the two, but it was Anderson who got the first mini break to go ahead 2-1, but with cries of “Vamos Pablo!” ringing in his ears, the Spaniard hit straight back, turning around a 3-5 deficit with a run of two points for 5-5. However, when his backhand went long to hand Anderson a match point, thoughts of Indian Wells must have come flooding back.
On match point, Anderson got the short return, but hit his forehand long to the delight of the Carreno Busta fans. The Spaniard set up his third match point with a backhand volley winner, and clinched the match when Anderson’s mishit backhand return found the first row.
“Last time I lost to him 7-6 in the final set and today I started playing really good, returning good and serving good, being very aggressive”, Carreno Busta said. “When I served for the match in the second set at 40-15, he played some very good points; passing shots and returning really good, hitting winners with his forehand, and after that it was a very tough moment for me to lose the second set. But I continued fighting on court and at the end of the match I saved a match point and finally I won. I’m very happy with the victory because it’s very important to me to get this victory against him and also to be in the semi-finals.”
The Spaniard owed the victory as much to his fighting spirit as to the support he received from his fans on the stadium court. “When I lost the second set, I was feeling a little bit tired at the beginning of the final set”, he said. “It was the crowd who started to shout “Vamos Pablo!” and at 3-3 I started to believe in myself again, in my game, and I think 50 percent of the victory is because of them.”
The stats show that there was very little to choose between them, with Carreno Busta winning one more point (106/211) than Anderson (105/211). His break point conversion rate was less impressive however, (3/10) 30% compared to Anderson (3/4) 75%. Anderson won hands down in the ace department with 14 unreturnables against just 6 from the Spaniard.
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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