Miami Open Daily Preview: Thursday’s Action Features Azarenka, Thiem, Rybakina - UBITENNIS
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Miami Open Daily Preview: Thursday’s Action Features Azarenka, Thiem, Rybakina

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A look at the grounds of the Miami Open (twitter.com/HardRockStadium)

Women’s second round action begins on Thursday, including Major champions like Victoria Azarenka and Elena Rybakina, as well as American top seeds Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff.

The highest profile WTA match of the day sees Azarenka, a three-time Miami Open champion, face Italy’s Camila Giorgi, who is always a threat on a faster hard court.  Meanwhile, men’s first round action concludes on Thursday, headlined by 2020 US Open champ Dominic Thiem facing Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Lorenzo Sonego vs. Dominic Thiem (WC) – Not Before 7:00pm on Stadium Court

Dominic Thiem continues to struggle to regain his form after missing nearly a year of action due to a wrist injury.  He showed some signs of his former self during the fall, reaching the semifinals of both Gijon and Antwerp.  However, he is just 1-8 at all levels to start 2023, with his only win coming on clay in Buenos Aires over Alex Molcan.  Thiem has lost two of his last three matches in a final-set tiebreak, including two weeks ago to Adrian Mannarino at Indian Wells, a tournament Dominic won four years ago.

Sonego was ranked as high as 21st in the world just 18 months ago, but is now 59th, and owns a 5-8 record in 2023.  Yet it’s worth noting he’s also had some tough draws.  Five of those eight losses have come against top 20 opposition.

These players have split two previous meetings., both on clay.  In 2019 in Kitzbuhel, Thiem prevailed in straight sets.  In 2021 in Rome, Sonego prevailed in an epic encounter on his home soil, claiming a third-set tiebreak after nearly three-and-a-half hours.  While neither man arrives in Miami with much confidence, it’s hard to favor Dominic until he gets back to his winning ways.


Camila Giorgi vs. Victoria Azarenka (14) – Not Before 7:00pm on Grandstand Court

Azarenka’s three Miami titles came in 2009, 2011, and 2016, defeating Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova in those finals.  She is 38-10 lifetime in Miami, and 10-6 on the season, with half of those victories coming during her semifinal run at the Australian Open.

Giorgi is also 10-6 this year, with half of her wins coming during her title run last month at a hard court event in Merida.  In the first round on Tuesday, she survived a dramatic affair against another of the WTA’s hardest hitters, defeating Kaiai Kanepi in a match that consisted of three tiebreak sets and lasted over three-and-a-half hours.

Giorgi leads their head-to-head 2-1.  That includes a victory nine years ago on grass, as well as a win five years ago on a hard court, though Azarenka retired after only eight games in that match.  Most recently, four years ago on a hard court in Toronto, Vika won in straight sets.  On Thursday, I give Azarenka the edge in a city where she has enjoyed much success, especially considering Giorgi may be a bit physically depleted after her opening round.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Katherine Sebov (Q) – Pegula is 15-5 in 2023, and lost a heartbreaker at Indian Wells to Petra Kvitova in an extended third-set tiebreak, during which both players held multiple match points.  Sebov is a 24-year-old Canadian who has claimed two ITF-level hard court titles within the past few months.

Rebecca Marino vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Gauff is 14-4 this season, and is just 3-3 lifetime at her home state’s biggest event.  Marino is a 32-year-old Canadian who has taken several extended breaks from competitive tennis, but won 49 matches at all levels last year.  At the 2022 French Open, Coco defeated Rebecca 7-5, 6-0.

Elena Rybakina (10) vs. Anna Kalinskaya – Rybakina is now 16-4 on the year, coming off her Indian Wells title run last week, where she avenged her Australian Open final loss to Aryna Sabalenka.  Kalinskaya is 6-4 in main draws this season, and while she’s never played Elena at tour level, she did defeat her four years ago in the final of an ITF-level event in Australia.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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