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Have You Seen Tony Finau & Rajeev Ram In The Same Room?
Have you ever seen ATP Tour star Rajeev Ram and Tony Finau, one of the best golfers in the world, in the same room?
A laughing Ram confessed he is often confused for the PGA Tour standout.
“A lot more than I can count. I play a fair bit of golf and whenever I go to a golf course, there’s a good chance that somebody will say something like, ‘Has anybody ever told you you look like Tony Finau?’” Ram said. “I have my standard response of, ‘Yeah, I do, until they actually watch me play.’”
The professional athletes have never met. Ram has attended golf events where Finau was competing, like the Ryder Cup in Wisconsin two years ago. But in those situations, the tennis player has never been confused for the golfer.
Fans of Netflix’s Full Swing might have made the connection when watching the episode that features Finau. Ram has not watched the show, but he sees Finau on television often.
“Golf is definitely on in our house more than tennis, so I watch him all the time. I love watching golf. It’s probably my favourite sport to watch to be honest, so I definitely root for Tony whenever he’s playing,” Ram said. “It’s kind of weird to be honest because sometimes you have that feeling when someone says, ‘Oh that looks like you’, and you don’t really see it. But I genuinely see it and I feel like when I watch him on TV I’m like, ‘Man that looks like it really could be me out there.’
“I think it’s cool just because he plays a sport that I love. I love watching it. I don’t know him, but he seems like a top-notch guy.”
When Ram is home, he tries to play golf daily. The American has become known in tennis for his serve, which looks identical to Pete Sampras’. But he does not think he can mimic Finau’s golf swing.
“I probably would say [my handicap is] a 12. I wish I was better. I should be better at certain things that I feel like I have a skill for in tennis, [but] I’m not very good at in golf like some touch and some feel,” Ram said. “I think my imitation skills stop in tennis. I can’t emulate anything in golf out of anyone. If I could I would pick him for sure, but I can’t do anything. I feel like I’m lucky to make contact a lot of the time in golf.”
Ram’s longtime friend and former professional tennis player Prakash Amritraj, a current commentator for Tennis Channel, has long believed the tennis player looks like Finau.
“I had to be the first guy that told him. I mean Tony Finau is his doppelganger. I texted him the minute I saw Tony Finau and I said, ‘What are you doing, you’re supposed to be at Indian Wells, but it looks like you’re playing at The Players right now,’” Amritraj said. “I mean, he wouldn’t buy it. But as soon as you point it out, I have no idea how anybody else doesn’t see only that. It’s wild.”
As funny as the Finau-Ram connection is to the tennis player, he is fully focused on the court, where he partnered Joe Salisbury past Italians Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini on Thursday to reach the second round of the Miami Open presented by Itau.
“It’s been a little bit of a tough stretch for me. I took all of February off after Davis Cup, didn’t do anything at all except try to rehab my achilles,” Ram said. “The last couple weeks have been tough, but feel like we’re starting to sort of round back into form and play alright. Any time you get a win against those guys is pretty nice just because they’ve been around a while.”
Resilient Rublev Takes Down Wolf In Miami
Andrey Rublev kept his cool in the face of a stern opening test from J.J. Wolf on Friday at the Miami Open presented by Itau, where the sixth seed earned a 7-6(3), 6-4 second-round victory.
Rublev was broken by home favourite Wolf in the opening game of the match and trailed for much of the first set on Grandstand, but his aggressive game ultimately proved too much for the No. 50-ranked American in fast conditions at Hard Rock Stadium. The 25-year-old Rublev fired 36 winners, including 16 aces, to notch a one-hour, 41-minute win and reach the third round at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami for the third time.
“It’s a great feeling, because I didn’t know what to expect and it was my first match here,” said Rublev after his win. “I didn’t have much time to adapt. I know he’s dangerous, that he can play really well and really aggressive.
“As soon as we started to play I was losing, so it was not easy. At the end I was happy that I was able to keep calm inside, and I was just waiting for my moment [in the first set]. As soon as I had the moment I was able to make it, and then I started to play a bit better and I started to feel more confident.”
Although Rublev made the worst possible start to his Miami campaign by dropping his serve in the opening game, he put those early difficulties behind him quickly. The World No. 7 stayed dialled in from the baseline and that persistence helped him crucially reclaim the break to level at 5-5.
Rublev carried that momentum through to dominate a first-set tie-break in which he regularly pulled his opponent around the court with some fiery forehand hitting, and he kept his composure impressively again in the second set to complete the win. The 2021 Miami semi-finalist saved all five break points he faced in the second set and claimed a decisive break in the seventh game to improve his record for 2023 to 12-7.
“I played him once [before] and he played completely different in that match,” said Rublev, when asked about the effectiveness of his down-the-line backhand against Wolf. “I guess he changed tactic, and the tactic was to try and play as much as he can with the forehand and to play everything to my backhand.
“In the end he was open a lot down the line, so as soon as I had a chance I was trying to go for it, because he was obviously too much on the backhand side.”
Rublev’s third-round opponent will be 29th seed Miomir Kecmanovic or Ugo Humbert. Rublev is a 12-time tour-level titlist, a tally which includes five ATP 500 crowns, but is chasing his first Masters 1000 title in Florida.
In other early-Friday action, Emil Ruusuvuori notched a straight-sets victory against Roberto Bautista Agut for the second consecutive tournament by prevailing 6-4, 7-6(5) against the Spaniard on Court 5.
The Finn backed up his win against Bautista Agut in Indian Wells two weeks ago by outhitting the 22nd seed by 28 winners to 20 in a two-hour, 12-minute encounter in Miami. Ruusuvuori will face Alexander Zverev or Taro Daniel next as he looks to reach the fourth round at Hard Rock Stadium for the second time.
The 24th-seeded Denis Shapovalov also enjoyed a second-round victory, but the Canadian was made to battle before downing Guido Pella 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. The 2019 semi-finalist Shapovalov held on in an all-lefty battle for his first Masters 1000 victory of the year. The 23-year-old next faces ninth seed Taylor Fritz or wild card Emilio Nava.
After Eight Hours Stuck On The Runway, Foki Is Ready To Fly In Miami
Editor's note: This story was translated from ATPTour.com/es
In an attempt to temper the on-court mental rollercoaster, finding emotional equilibrium is a key part of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina’s life on the ATP Tour. The Spaniard and his team have discovered that there is no better place to train this than in everyday life. In fact, after a great campaign at the BNP Paribas Open, he had the perfect opportunity to put his training into practice.
Davidovich knew he had to be careful of the explosion of joy that came with reaching his first quarter-finals in the desert and guaranteeing himself a place in the Top 25 of the Pepperstone ATP Ranking for the first time.
“It’s a result of all the hard work,” Davidovich Fokina said. “But sometimes these things make you feel euphoric and excited, and you have to handle it calmly, because otherwise you can come back down with a crash. You have to stay level.”
But his excellent performance in Indian Wells was not the only reason he had to be wary of his emotions. He also had to draw on his new-found mental strength during his journey from California to Florida, when he was stuck in a plane at the airport for over eight hours. It was a test of the Spaniard’s new-found mental fortitude, leaving his hotel in Indian Wells at 8:15 a.m. last Wednesday only to eventually arrive at his accommodation in Miami at 11:00 a.m. the following day... without any luggage!
“The day after losing to Medvedev [in Indian Wells], we had a flight at 11:00 a.m. to Dallas and then another from Dallas to Miami,” remembers ‘Foki’ as he begins to recount his ordeal. “And halfway along they tell us that we have to divert to Austin because there was a tornado in Dallas. And we had to wait for it to go in order to continue the journey. In the end we were sitting on the plane not doing anything for eight hours.”
He spent less time competing in the California desert, and he was there for an entire fortnight. During his matches in Indian Wells, where he defeated Wu Yibing, Karen Khachanov and Cristian Garin, he spent a total of just over seven hours on court. Little did he know that he would spend almost nine trapped in a stationary plane.
At one point, the reason they were unable to take off stopped being the tornado. Their new foe became the air traffic in Austin, then fuel and poor weather and, finally, there were no new pilots available. “It was driving us all round the bend!” explains Jorge Aguirre, Davidovich’s coach, who was sitting one row in front of his understudy. “Every so often, the pilot would say, ‘We’ll be taking off soon’. And that went on for almost nine hours. It was also a small plane. Just imagine!”
Davidovich was sitting with his girlfriend, doing his best to deal with the frustration of confinement and uncertainty. “We were both fed up, telling each other that it looked like we would be there for a while. So we acted as if we were at home, watching things on the iPad,” said the 23-year-old.
The people close to him have been key to his quest for balance, and the experience of that journey is a prime example. “Everyone around me, my team, my girlfriend, my family... they are all there to keep my feet on the ground,” explained the Spaniard.
“We know that we have to help him manage his emotions in his daily life so that he is well drilled on court when it comes to dealing with things calmly, rather than angrily or emotionally,” Aguirre revealed. “The goal is for him to kind of see situations as challenges to allow him to handle them with a better perspective.”
The challenge presented by his trip to Miami is an example, and it is one that Davidovich Fokina overcame with aplomb. After the exhausting wait in Austin, they disembarked and took another direct flight to Miami, which took off at 5:30 a.m. However, once they had landed, they discovered they had no luggage. It arrived three days later!
“In the end, we decided to spend those days resting in Miami, so there were no problems in that respect,” concluded Davidovich.
Having come through the challenge of his travel nightmare, avoiding tornadoes and other setbacks, the Spaniard is now ready for his next one at the Miami Open presented by Itau, where he will play his opener against American Brandon Nakashima. His objective there is to continue to pick up points for the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.
“We’re really focused on the Race [Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin]. On this US swing, we’re concentrating on the goal of getting into the top group to try and be part of the peloton,” explains Jorge Aguirre. “The fact that he’s also now in the Top 25 of the Race is great and it shows we’re on the right path.”
Ruud Reveals Favourite WTA Player To Watch
Casper Ruud reached the final at the Miami Open presented by Itau last year. The Norwegian is back at the hard-court event this week and chasing his maiden tour-level title of the season.
Before his opening match against Ilya Ivashka, Ruud caught up with ATP Uncovered and answered questions fans put to him. The 24-year-old discussed his bromance with Italian Matteo Berrettini, revealed his guilty food pleasures and picked his favourite player to watch on the Hologic WTA Tour.
“I think she plays fun from the current generation,” Ruud said. “She has been dominating for the past year or so."
Many fans think Ruud has a famous lookalike in the form of a singer. While unsure of the comparison himself, the Norwegian is eager to play a round of golf with the Irishman.
“I have seen this comparison a couple of times. I don’t see it as much as some others do,” Ruud said. “I have seen videos of him playing golf, so it would be fun to get a round in with him. Maybe people would have a tough time seeing who is who.”
Tune into the video to hear Ruud's answers.
Guillermo Coria On Alcaraz’s Drop Shot: 'I’m In Awe Of The Way He Does It'
Editor's note: This story was translated from ATPTour.com/es
Although Guillermo Coria left behind an incredible legacy that includes nine tour-level titles and a spell at No. 3 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in 2004, many remember him for one of his signature moves: the drop shot. Who better to ask, then, about one of its biggest proponents in today’s game, Carlos Alcaraz?
During his visit to the Miami Open presented by Itau, a tournament where he reached the final in 2004, ‘The Magician’ analysed one of the key shots in the armoury of the current World No. 1.
“Alcaraz’s drop shot is amazing,” Coria told ATPTour.com. “He’s a very intelligent player, who reads the game very well. He plays drop shots right when they should be played. He always sets up well and, best of all, he disguises it so well.
“That makes it even more complete. I’m in awe of how he plays drop shots. I love and celebrate the fact that there’s a player with so much potential who has such a good drop shot,” he adds with a hint of nostalgia in his voice. His favourite shot is now a rarity on the ATP Tour, but seeing the World No. 1 use it so frequently brings a smile to his face.
Most amazing of all is that Alcaraz can pull it off on every surface. Even on fast courts, where the ball bounces the most, increasing an opponent’s chances of reaching it. Also, Alcaraz is brave enough to utilize this weapon under the utmost pressure, when the nerves are jangling.
For Guillermo, the elder brother of Federico —who is playing this week in Miami— Alcaraz is one of the three players with the best drop shots in today’s game.
“I would put him right up there. Andy Murray also has a very good one, as does Djokovic,” Coria said. “They both use it as a tool to surprise the opponent. Those two and Alcaraz are the players I enjoy most when they play drop shots.”
Coria’s opinion was relayed to the man himself during Alcaraz’s first press conference in Miami. He replied: “It really is a great compliment for him to say that I’m one of the best at that. It’s incredible to hear that from Guillermo. It’s true that it’s a weapon I try to use quite a lot. I have very powerful shots, and combining them with the drop shot makes for a very good combination. I’ve had it since I was little, it’s something that comes from within.”
The statistics back him up. The drop shot played a fundamental part in Alcaraz’s title campaign at the 2022 ATP Masters 1000 in Miami. In the tournament, the Spaniard played 50 drop shots in six matches, and he won the point with 70 per cent of them. In fact, he won 16 of those points consecutively in his second-round clash (d. Cilic) and in the quarters (d. Kecmanovic).
Coria, who retired in 2009 and currently captains the Argentine Davis Cup team, explains why Alcaraz has such a high success rate when he decides to play a drop shot.
“When his opponent is on the defence, you can’t tell if Alcaraz is going to hit the ball on one side or the other, or if he’s going to play a drop shot,” the 41-year-old Argentine said. “In general, they are expecting the ball to come back hard. That’s why it’s a surprise.
“Also, he hits it very well on both sides, with his backhand and forehand. And he has a very good drop shot with both. My drop shots, for example, were on my forehand. I very rarely played it on my backhand.”
Again, his observations are backed up by the statistics; last year in Miami, the Spaniard played 30 drop shots with his forehand (winning 22) and 20 with his backhand (winning 13).
There is another important factor in Alcaraz’s success with this shot. He plays so deep and with such power that he gradually pushes his opponent back in the middle of the point. This creates the perfect space required to play drop shots. Argentinian Sebastian Baez can attest to that after two losses against the world No. 1.
“With all the power he has, he pushes you back, and when he hits the drop shot, whether it’s good or not, you’re really far back,” Baez said. “He uses that to gain time and sometimes it’s not even worth running. It’s a great resource among the other thousands he has.”
He made a statement with it last year, and this fortnight in Miami he will be bidding to demonstrate that he has become even more adept with this weapon over the last 12 months.
Coaches Corner: Stine's 'Backwards Progression' To Propel Paul Forward
Tommy Paul has been one of the breakthrough stars of 2023. The American has clawed to the Australian Open semi-finals and the championship match in Acapulco, putting himself in sixth place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin ahead of the Miami Open presented by Itau.
Brad Stine, who has coached Paul since 2020, spoke to ATPTour.com about his charge's progress, how they reshaped his game, what it will take to continue his ascent and more.
Last year you said one of the big things you were working on with Tommy was trying to get him to move forward a little bit more. How happy are you with his progress?
I think after Tommy’s first match here, he was interviewed on court and he was asked what he and I might be working on right now and he said, ‘Well, I’ll just tell you that I never come to the net enough for Brad. No matter how much I come in, he would always prefer if I would come in more.’ I jokingly say every single match Tommy plays he could have come in more than what he probably came in. So I think it continues to be a work in progress.
That being said, I think Tommy’s identity as a player has developed into what I would describe, I think a lot of guys on Tour would describe, as an aggressive all-court player. I don’t know that I would describe him as or that he would be described as an attacking player. But he’s an all-court player that can mix in serving and volleying, that can attack off the ground and come forward and finish at the net. He does that enough to keep his opponents off balance and not comfortable.
If they’re giving up any kind of short balls or anything that he can attack, then he’s going to put pressure on them coming forward. He can keep them off balance on his serve. Even against some of the best returners, he can keep them off balance with some serving and volleying. All that stuff I think has definitely improved and become kind of a staple of his game. He’s not Maxime Cressy. I wouldn’t expect him to be Maxime Cressy. But he’s coming forward a fair amount for sure.
How much time did it take when you started with him for him to start buying into that idea?
Since I started with Tommy, there have been different phases and progressions that we’ve gone through and we didn’t really get to a major focus on that until probably midway through our second year together and then we started focusing a little bit more on the volley. I always think that trying to get someone to become more of an attacking-style player is a backwards progression.
You have to help them with the volley and get them to be a good volleyer. Hopefully, potentially, a great volleyer before you can ask them to start transitioning, attacking and coming forward. If you do it the other way around and they come in and they don’t have very much success because they’re not as comfortable with the volley itself and they’re losing a lot of points, then they’re probably not going to want to continue to come forward.
We spent quite a bit of time just focused on him working on volleys. That alone, him getting more comfortable with the volley, the feel of the volley, where he’s supposed to be in the court. Those kind of things translated to him coming in more. Then we started talking more about transitioning, options and plays that he can make to come forward and try to get in. It took a while I would say to get to the point. I wouldn’t say that either of us is necessarily completely satisfied with where he’s at. He can still do a better job with some of his transition plays. He can still do a better job sometimes with the volleys and or his positioning and stuff like that. There’s always room for improvement.
When Tommy’s been having the results he’s been having lately, how much does that help you with his buy-in?
It’s obviously in his mind! We at least know that he’s aware of it or maybe he’s at least listening to something I’m saying. At the level that these guys are competing at and playing against the best players in the world, you go through periods where it can be very difficult to create opportunities to come forward, especially from the backcourt.
Off of groundstrokes guys hit the ball so big nowadays and with so much depth and penetration and weight on the ball with the racquet materials and the strings and everything, that sometimes it’s hard to get a ball to attack, so that becomes very difficult. That being said, you can always serve and volley and you can always attack second serves. So that’s become a staple of Tommy’s game and I think everyone is aware of that. The crush and rush.
In the olden days we used to talk about chip and charge, but guys with very good two-handed returns off both sides, you can take the ball very early and take the ball up the line on the deuce side or go cross or up the line off the ad side and come in behind those balls. Tommy’s been very, very, very good and very successful on that with a lot of guys, especially on faster hard courts, grass or indoors. Those plays are really effective plays.
With the coaching trial, do you like having the ability now to have mini conversations with him during matches?
I like it. I personally like it. I think there are interesting dynamics to it. I think that there’s been a lot less coaching than I think people would have expected. Overall, I think that for us personally, just for us individually, Tommy and I, it took us a little bit of time, at least two or three matches when we first started doing it, to get it into a comfortable rhythm.
Tommy the first couple times when he had it available to him, because I was openly able to communicate with him, he was using the box a little bit more in a way to kind of vent his frustrations, which he didn’t normally do. But it was like, ‘Oh, that’s open now? I can go there?’ We actually had to have a conversation like, ‘That’s not the purpose of it.’ You still need to maintain your calm and concentration on the court.
One of the things we talked about is Tommy needs to maintain more of his eye focus within the lines of the court like he normally would when you weren’t allowed to coach. He can maintain that and still hear me. As long as he’s hearing my voice and hearing what I’m saying to him, that’s fine.
Tommy’s made deep runs lately and his Pepperstone ATP Ranking is getting up there. What will it take to make the next step to a Grand Slam final, the Top 10, or whatever that might be? Is it incremental improvements on what you’ve been working on or something different?
It’s always small steps. I think since we’ve started, Tommy’s made very consistent progress. Obviously people see Australia where he made a semi. They think that’s kind of like oh Tommy Paul had a major breakthrough and all this stuff, but for me it wasn’t really a major breakthrough.
Last year I think he made eight or nine quarter-finals, fourth round at Wimbledon, he made quarters for the first time at a Masters 1000. The year before that he won his first title. He hasn’t won a title again — to me that’s a little bit disappointing. I think that’s another big incremental step for him, whether it’s a 250 or 500, I’d like to see him go deep in one of these [Masters 1000 events]. To realistically have a chance to keep going deep consistently at the Slams, maybe have a chance to make a final or something like that, you need to be in the position that he was in Australia, playing someone like Novak in the semis.
Getting through the matches like beating Taylor in the semis in Acapulco is a perfect training ground for him to prepare for those kinds of matches at the Grand Slam level. You need to put yourself in that position more and more and more and more often so that you’re playing those guys. That’s one of the goals. In order to do that, you’ve got to go deep consistently.
Last year he was doing that, he played a lot of top guys because he was making at least quarter-finals. Hopefully he can take another step or two farther this year, which we have already. Last year it was like a running joke with us at a point after you’ve gotten to like three quarters, four quarters, five quarters, you’re like okay quarters is our deal, we’re not making it farther than quarters.
I actually said to him after he made the quarters, I think he beat Rafa in Paris to make the quarters. I don’t even remember who he played in the quarters, I remember he beat Rafa in the Round of 16. I came into the warmup area afterwards and I was like, ‘Dude, should I just book our flights for tomorrow? Because you know we’re not going past the quarter-finals.’ He was laughing, but then he loses in the quarter-finals and we’re like ‘Geez’. We were joking, ‘This is going to be the year of the semi-finals’ and then he made the semis in Australia and then in Acapulco I actually said to him, ‘You know what, let’s make it semis or better, not just semis.’
But it’s been a good start to the year, that’s for sure. We’ll see where it goes.
Cerundolo & Etcheverry Score Slam Dunk Meeting With Manu Ginobli
It was a slam dunk of a day for Argentine tennis Thursday at the Miami Open presented by Itau. National icon Manu Ginobli, a Basketball Hall of Fame NBA player for the San Antonio Spurs, spent time with some of his country’s stars.
Ginobli met 2022 semi-finalist Francisco Cerundolo and Tomas Martin Etcheverry, who earned a first-round win against Pavel Kotov.
“[It was] fantastic to get to know Manu. He’s an amazing player. He’s one of the best athletes in Argentine sports, so he’s an idol for me,” Cerundolo told ATPTour.com. “He’s a great basketball player. I know he is a tennis fan. He likes tennis, so it’s a pleasure to meet him and get to know him. I remember watching him in the Olympic games, playing for the Spurs, so there are a lot of memories that come to my mind.”
Ginobli was more than a basketball star for his country. He transcended sport as an icon, not just a four-time NBA champion. Cerundolo was thrilled to meet him in person for the first time.
“It’s fantastic because for [someone from] Argentina to get to the NBA and be one of the best players in many years of the NBA and win championships, it’s super tough, so he’s an inspiration for me and for all other athletes in any other sport,” Cerundolo said. “Most of the people look up to him because he’s also a really nice guy. He’s always happy. We can always talk to him. He’s an example for everyone.”
It created for a special atmosphere in Miami when Ginobli became a fan in the stands for Etcheverry during his straight-sets victory. Having a legendary athlete made the World No. 73’s first ATP Masters 1000 match win even more memorable.
“Here in Miami it’s incredible because there are lots of Argentines, and to have someone like Manu there and Pico Monaco, a lot of people that had a great career in their lives from Argentina, it was incredible,” Etcheverry said. “It was incredible to have him in my team there supporting me. I was really motivated. It’s a dream come true to have this legend in my team in the [stands].”
No More Nightmares In Miami For Struff: 'I Don't Want To Stop Here'
Some players would have had a nightmare in Jan-Lennard Struff’s shoes Wednesday. The German walked onto Court Butch Buchholz for his first-round match against Fabio Fognini. One year ago at the same venue, he was dealt one of the most difficult blows of his career.
The German fractured his foot during his first-round match against Pedro Martinez. In the middle of the second set, realising he was unable to properly move, Struff retired. Did returning to the site of the injury bother him?
“No, it’s nice to play here for sure. It’s a beautiful city, beautiful tournament,” Struff told ATPTour.com. “Not really weird, no. I didn’t think about it the whole match. Before I thought, ‘Okay it’s the same court’, but during the match I didn’t focus on that.”
Struff missed two-and-a-half months after his injury last year, and he fell as low as No. 168 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He was No. 167 as recently as January.
“It’s not easy. You’re used to playing big events, Masters [1000 events] and stuff. Starting in the qualies in Grand Slams again is something you need to adjust to, definitely,” Struff said. “The quality of the tennis and the level of the players I think increased the past couple of years so much and if you think you’ll be up there pretty fast again, it’s the wrong thought.
“It takes a while and there are a lot of good players. They try to beat you, they know your ranking was pretty high, it was in the Top 50, so they wanted to beat you. I remember when I played [top] guys, I wanted to beat them. It’s not easy and I’m very happy with the past couple of weeks, for sure.”
After struggling to an 8-13 tour-level record in 2022, Struff is off to a quick start to 2023. He is 22-7 at all levels and with his three-set victory against Fognini returned to the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
“It’s nice to win. It was a tough match. Fabio was 3-1 up in the head to head, so it was very important for me to win this one today,” Struff said. “The season is going well so far, I’m playing good tennis and I want to continue.”
A former World No. 29 who has earned 10 wins against Top 10 opponents, Struff was once one of the most dangerous players on the ATP Tour. At his best, the 6’4” 32-year-old is capable of putting pressure on almost any player thanks to his powerful game.
Although his good start to the year has been satisfying, Struff is hungry for more. He will play 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.
“I want to go higher again for sure, I don’t want to stop here,” Struff said. “That would be strange to stop now. But I just want to play good tennis, enjoy and I want to climb again, that’s for sure. I don’t know how high I can go, but I’ll try to give my best, work hard and we’ll see.”
Sonego Sinks Thiem; Kokkinakis Back From The Brink
Italian Lorenzo Sonego snapped a six-match losing streak at ATP Masters 1000 level Thursday night in Miami when he defeated former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem 7-6(7), 6-2.
After a tight first set, the World No. 59 blew open the match by winning the first four games of the second set as his clean hitting from the baseline and a slew of errors from the former US Open champion proved telling.
"I wanted to be aggressive on the return and I was very aggressive overall today. I've wanted to play closer to the baseline this year," Sonego said. "I like to play in Miami because the conditions are really fast."
[ATP APP] Sonego, who reached the Miami fourth round in 2021, will next meet Briton Daniel Evans.
Thiem, who has not won a match at Masters 1000 level since Rome 2021, littered the stats sheet with 13 winners to 30 unforced errors spread evenly across both wings.
The Austrian has dropped to 1-8 on the season, failing to build on an encouraging return to the tour in 2022 from a serious wrist injury. He went 18-14 last year, but his sole victory this year came against Alex Molcan in the first round of Buenos Aires.
Australian lucky loser Thanasi Kokkinakis saved three match points in a third-set tie-break to hold out Belgian World No. 135 Zizou Bergs after earlier rallying from a set down and 2-4 in the decider.
World No. 94 Kokkinakis, who lost 7-5 in the third to Benoit Paire in the final round of qualifying before getting into the main draw as a lucky loser, advances to play eighth seed and 2021 champion Hubert Hurkacz.
"I've been feeling happy on court the past couple of weeks and made a pact with myself to at least compete, no matter how I'm feeling," said Kokkinakis, who last week defeated Czech Top 50 player Jiri Lehecka in the Phoenix Challenger. "My tennis is fine, it's just my head. I'm just trying to give myself every chance.
"The crowd got behind me and without them I wouldn't have pulled through. I'm happy I live to fight another day."
Alcaraz Starts Title & World No. 1 Defence; Ruud, Fritz Face Opening Tests In Miami
The second round of the 2023 Miami Open presented by Itau begins at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday, where the seeded players in the top half of the draw seek to kick-start their campaigns at the ATP Masters 1000 event.
Top seed Carlos Alcaraz is the defending champion in Miami as he aims to back up his Indian Wells title and complete the coveted ‘Sunshine Double’. The Spaniard plays Facundo Bagnis on Friday, while Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz, Andrey Rublev and Holger Rune are also in second-round action.
ATPTour.com previews a jam-packed Day 3 in southern Florida.
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[ATP APP] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. Facundo Bagnis (ARG)
The 19-year-old Alcaraz is playing for a lot more than just the trophy this year in Miami. The Spaniard must defend his crown in Florida to stay ahead of Novak Djokovic and retain the No.1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, while a title run would also make him the youngest man to complete the ‘Sunshine Double’ of winning Indian Wells and Miami in the same year.
Not that those factors are causing Alcaraz to feel any extra nerves. Knowing he needed to win in Indian Wells to return to World No.1, the Spaniard did not drop a set en route to his third Masters 1000 crown. He will aim to go about his business in a similarly cool fashion at Hard Rock Stadium, where he first takes on Bagnis in Friday’s day session.
“I don’t feel the pressure too much. I know the things I have to do,” said Alcaraz at his pre-tournament press conference. “I need to play relaxed and not mind if I lose or if I play well or not… That is why I am playing at a good level. I am enjoying every single second and playing relaxed. That is what I am thinking about on court.”
The World No. 100 Bagnis could not have been presented with a tougher second-round challenge after defeating Felipe Meligeni Alves to clinch his first main-draw win in Miami at the third attempt. The Argentine will be all too aware of the difficulties of breaking down Alcaraz — he claimed just four games against the Spaniard in the pair’s only previous ATP Head2Head meeting in Umag in 2022.
The variety in Alcaraz's game could be a key for disrupting Bagnis’ resilient baseline game enough to help him secure a similar result this time around. His trademark drop shot in particular is likely to be frequently deployed as he aims to avoid an early upset in Miami. Casper Ruud (NOR) vs. Ilya Ivashka
Ruud reached his maiden ATP Masters 1000 championship match in Miami a year ago, and the Norwegian will seek another deep run at Hard Rock Stadium to kick-start his 2023 season.
The third seed, who holds a 4-5 record for the year, faces a maiden ATP Head2Head meeting with Ilya Ivashka in his first-round match. The World No. 80 Ivashka pushed eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev to three sets in Indian Wells and will believe he can apply similar pressure to Ruud.
The key for Ivashka to gain a foothold in the match will likely be his ability to nullify his opponent’s powerful forehand, which was a crucial weapon in the Norwegian’s 2022 run to the championship match. Any short balls on offer are likely to be punished by Ruud, who is a nine-time ATP Tour titlist.
Although he has so far struggled to back up his stellar 2022, that ability to hit through opponents with his huge groundstrokes makes Ruud particularly suited to the fast courts in Miami. The World No. 4 will hope that his return to Hard Rock Stadium can be the catalyst for another dream Masters 1000 run.View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Casper Ruud (@casperruud) Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. [WC] Emilio Nava (USA)
A clash of home favourites on Hard Rock Stadium presents the local fans with an intriguing matchup between No. 1 American Fritz and 21-year-old wild card Emilio Nava.
Although Fritz’s Indian Wells title defence was ended in the quarter-finals by Jannik Sinner, the 25-year-old continues to impress in 2023. He is 17-5 for the year, a record which includes helping Team USA to United Cup glory and lifting his fifth ATP Tour title in Delray Beach. Fritz will feel his big serve and aggressive gamestyle will stand him in good stead in Miami as he bids for his second Masters 1000 crown.
Nava has already shown he can go toe-to-toe with a big-serving opponent in Miami, however. The World No. 182 did not face a break point in downing John Isner in his first-round match and he will hope finding that rhythm behind his delivery again can make life difficult for Fritz.
Nava also has recent experience competing on the big stage. He defeated John Millman in five sets at the 2022 US Open for his maiden tour-level win before pushing former World No. 1 Andy Murray to four sets in the second round. Can he raise his game again to spring an upset Friday on Hard Rock Stadium?Also In Action…
Alcaraz, Ruud and Fritz are joined by Rublev and Rune as Top 10 stars in action on Friday. The 2021 semi-finalist and sixth seed Rublev opens against the World No. 50 J.J. Wolf, while Rune will make his Miami main-draw debut against Marton Fucsovics.
Jannik Sinner’s semi-final run in Indian Wells moved the Italian to 16-4 for the year, and the 10th-seeded 21-year-old looks to improve that record further against Laslo Djere. Sinner has pedigree in south Florida — he reached his only previous Masters 1000 final in Miami in 2021.
Another former finalist, the 13th-seeded Aexander Zverev, plays wild card Taro Daniel in the final match of the night session on Hard Rock Stadium, while the 31st seed Diego Schwartzman takes on the in-form Chinese star Wu Yibing.
Tommy Paul, Maxime Cressy and Brandon Nakashima are the other home favourites looking to channel the energy of the local fans in Miami as they take on Marc-Andrea Huesler, Dusan Lajovic and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, respectively.
Lehecka Races Through Miami Opener
Jiri Lehecka wasted little time settling in to his maiden Miami Open presented by Itau campaign on Thursday morning, when the big-hitting Czech eased to a 6-3, 6-4 first-round victory against Federico Coria.
The 21-year-old Lehecka surged to an early 3-0 lead against Coria on Court 1 at Hard Rock Stadium, where he is competing in an ATP Masters 1000 main draw for just the third time. That set the tone for the pair’s first ATP Head2Head encounter, as Lehecka’s powerful groundstrokes and confidence to move forward whenever possible helped him to a comfortable 63-minute victory.
“The conditions suit me much better than in Indian Wells,” Lehecka later told ATPTour.com. “The surface is a bit faster and the balls are flying more. Today’s match was tough because it was my first match in Miami. I managed it well.
“I was serving pretty good. I knew that Federico improved a lot on hard courts, which meant I tried to prepare a bit better for our match, and I’m super happy that I won.”
The World No. 44 Lehecka fired 23 winners and won 75 per cent (9/12) of points at the net en route to his win. Cordoba finalist Coria battled well to restrict his opponent to a single break of serve in each set, but the Argentine was unable to conjure any break points of his own as he fell short in his bid to reach the second round in Miami for the first time.
After he reached the Australian Open quarter-finals in January and then notched his first Masters 1000 main-draw win in Indian Wells two weeks ago, Lehecka’s strong Miami debut represents another step forward in a breakout season for the 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up. After downing Coria for his 13th tour-level win of the season, the Czech has now equalled his tally of victories for the entire 2022 season.
Lehecka will next try to replicate his triumphant opening display in a second-round clash against 18th seed Lorenzo Musetti. The pair has met once before on Tour, with Lehecka a three-set winner in the Rotterdam quarter-finals in February 2022.
Bid Process Launches For Next Gen ATP Finals From 2023
The ATP, governing body of men’s professional tennis, has launched a global bid process to determine the future host of the Next Gen ATP Finals, from 2023-2027.
Since its inception in 2017, the Next Gen ATP Finals has been held in Milan, Italy, featuring the best eight ATP singles players aged 21-and-under each season. Eight of the current Top 10 players in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings have competed at the event, with the likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Jannik Sinner all lifting the trophy.
In addition to spotlighting the future stars of the game, the tournament has provided a platform to trial new innovations. Several of the rules and technologies first tested in Milan have since been incorporated onto the main ATP Tour, including shot clocks, Live Electronic Line Calling, Video Review and more.
With players competing all season long to qualify, the event delivers a consistent and compelling narrative for the Host City – building on its impressive global broadcast and digital reach.
Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman, said: “This season-ending tournament has created a pathway to stardom for young talent within our sport. It drives innovation and gives fans a unique opportunity to witness the stars of tomorrow going head-to-head.
“Milan and the Federazione Italiana Tennis & Padel (FITP) have been outstanding partners since 2017. The event has had an undeniable impact on the sport and attracted significant interest from potential future host cities. We are excited to undertake this international tender process as we look to build on that success from 2023.”
The ATP has chosen Deloitte’s Sport Business Group to manage the bid process, which begins today. This year’s tournament is expected to take place in December, with the exact dates to be determined with the successful bidder. Interested parties must complete an initial Expression of Interest form available here. The bid process will also provide an opportunity to express an interest for the tournament to become a combined men’s and women’s event over the course of the term, in partnership with WTA.
For more information about the Next Gen ATP Finals hosting opportunity, click here.
Any queries – and completed initial Express of Interest forms - should be directed to NextGenFinals2023@deloitte.co.uk.
Bjorklund & Shapovalov: One Couple Chasing The Dream Together
Mirjam Bjorklund was battling deep into the third set of her first-round match at the Miami Open presented by Itau on Tuesday against Jasmine Paolini. The Swede had never won a qualifying match at a WTA 1000 match before, but she qualified and put herself in a position to reach the second round of the main draw.
When Bjorklund walked to the side of the court to collect her towel, longtime boyfriend Denis Shapovalov was in the front row cheering her on.
"I wouldn't call it coaching,” Shapovalov said. “As players we try to help each other out if we see something, but it's more support than anything.”
Bjorklund clawed past Paolini 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 for one of the biggest wins of her career. Nobody was happier than Shapovalov.
"It's always nice to get a first,” Shapovalov said. “She lost first-round qualifying the past two years in tough matches, so for her to win both qualifying matches and the first round is massive. We'll see where she can take it from here.”
Bjorklund added: “It’s where I’m striving to get to. These matches help me develop a lot and I need these challenges to see what’s missing in my game and to know what I should work on so I can take the next step. I feel like I’ve developed over the last year a lot just by being around really good players and having the chance to play against them, so this is definitely something that I’m very excited about.”
The Canadian and Swede were born less than nine months apart. Bjorklund is 24 and Shapovalov turns 24 next month, but they did not know each other well in the juniors.
“We knew each other a little bit in juniors but not a lot. He was doing a lot better than I was, so I would just see his name in the finals and I would be on a flight back home, but I didn’t know him personally at that time,” Bjorklund said. “We got to know each other a couple years later.”View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Denis Shapovalov (@denis.shapovalov)
The pair began dating in 2019 and they have been one another’s biggest supporter ever since. The ATP Tour and Hologic WTA Tour calendars take the world’s best players throughout the world, and it is not often they are able to be there for one another in person.
That made a moment like Bjorklund’s match Tuesday in Miami even more special.
“Denis can’t be around all the time when I’m playing events, so it’s super nice to have him support me in the box and I think he has a great eye for my game and for tennis in general, so I really trust him when he tells me things and when he coaches me, but he’s very keen on the fact that he’s not my coach,” said Bjorklund, who is coached by legendary Swede Jonas Bjorkman. “He’s just my boyfriend and supporting [me] in those moments, but I do really appreciate that and I know that I can trust what he’s saying, so it’s very reassuring when I have him there.”
The couple enjoys speaking about tennis away from the venue, too. “She's extremely smart, you can see that on the court. I always try to ask her questions and vice versa. We both trust each other a lot,” Shapovalov said.View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Denis Shapovalov (@denis.shapovalov)
According to Bjorklund, they both see the game similarly, with an aggressive mindset. Another perk of their relationship is understanding what one another is going through during the highs and the lows.
”We always find a way to support each other and have a good time and that can definitely help if things are not going the way you want on court.”
Shapovalov will play Guido Pella in the Miami second round and Bjorklund will continue her tournament against Ostapenko.
“It’s obviously what I’m here for. This is a great feeling. It was my first WTA 1000 win ever in the qualifying and to go on and actually win a round in the main draw and get myself a spot in the second round and having the chance to play against top players is really fun,” Bjorklund said. “I’m super happy and I’m very excited for the next round.”
No matter what happens, Shapovalov will be by her side and vice versa.
Rublev, Medvedev Experience One Direction Mania
One Direction and two ATP Tour stars combined for an unforgettable moment in Mexico.
Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev spent a day in Mexico before traveling to Florida for the Miami Open presented by Itau. They received a big surprise when they met One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson.
“That was funny because when we were arriving, we saw so many people in front of the hotel,” Rublev said. “Daniil was like, ‘Why [are there] so many people here?’
“Outside of the hotel were a thousand people, kids, girls. As soon as he came out you cannot imagine what was happening. I saw it only in YouTube videos. I’ve never seen something like this in my life.”View this post on Instagram
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Rublev took his phone out to record the scene as Tomlinson’s fans screamed. When the singer walked by, he stopped to take a photo with the tennis players.
“It was a bit embarrassing, but it was still okay. In Daniil’s situation it was embarassing-embarassing because first of all the guy had no idea who we are and Daniil had no idea who he is. Me at least, I knew who he is, but Daniil had no idea,” Rublev said. “He was with 10 security [guards] around, he was in the middle and they were like, ‘Okay, fast, or something’. Even if they told him that we are athletes, that we are not that bad, not just random people.
“It was just, ‘Hey hey’, fast photo. But at least I knew who he is. Daniil, he didn’t even know, so he didn’t even want to do the photo. But [he did] because they said, ‘Okay let’s do it, it’s going to be nice’. Daniil didn’t know him, the guy didn’t know him, but it looked like Daniil is a friend of his because he was the one who approached.”
Rublev was plenty familiar with Tomlinson. In 2015, he recorded a music video covering One Direction’s Steal My Girl.
“Actually, I had fun. I like music a lot and I never had at that moment [the] experience [of] how you do [a music video] from the beginning because all the instruments that were there, it’s not from the cover,” Rublev said. “The guys were playing with real instruments. Everything — piano, guitar, drums — were separated and then they put them all together. So for me it was a really nice experience to see how this process goes.”
The biggest question is, who would Rublev have join him in a tennis-player version of One Direction.
“I would not pick myself,” Rublev quickly said.
He thought of players who look like an artist, producing names including Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul and Casper Ruud, who reminds him of Niall Horan.
How about Medvedev?
“No chance,” Rublev said. “Daniil can be the agent. Daniil is the manager.”
Murray Unhappy With Movement In Miami Defeat
Andy Murray said that he was surprised with his flat performance Wednesday at the Miami Open presented by Itau after suffering a straights-sets loss to Serbian Dusan Lajovic.
Having won two matches at the BNP Paribas Open and coming into the tournament off the back of encouraging practice sessions at Hard Rock Stadium, the two-time Miami champion sad that he expected better.
“I served pretty well, but the rest of the game was a bit of a problem today. Didn't really return that well, made a number of errors that obviously I wouldn't expect to be making,” Murray said of the 6-4, 7-5 defeat.
“I didn't really feel like I moved particularly well, which is really important for me, something I've been doing very well actually in most of the matches this year. So that was probably the thing.
“Some days you obviously don't hit the ball your best, but my movement wasn't great today.”
[ATP APP] In his first career meeting against World No. 76 Lajovic, Murray said that he also struggled with a change in conditions from Indian Wells.
“I'd been practising pretty well. It's a very different court here, very bouncy, much faster than last week. Very different to the practice courts and everything.
“The ball was bouncing up a bit higher and I just miss-timed quite a few balls. Sometimes on the slice it was shooting through a little bit more, kind of shanked a couple shots off the slice, as well… I wasn't expecting to play like that, even based on the last few days because I've been decent in practice.”
Murray said that he was yet to decide if he would stay in Miami a little longer to begin preparation for the clay swing but added that he would return to Spain no later than the end of this month, when he will reunite with his family and begin a training block.
Murray has 14 ATP Masters 1000 titles among his 46 career triumphs. His most recent win at this level came in Paris/Bercy in 2016, when he first rose to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Wu Flips His Miami Script For R1 Win
Wu Yibing continued his ascent on Wednesday at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
The Chinese star defeated Briton Kyle Edmund 7-5, 7-5 to reach the second round at the ATP Masters 1000 event. This year’s Dallas Open champion will next face 31st seed Diego Schwartzman to reach the third round at this level for the first time.
Six years ago, Wu made his Miami debut in qualifying as a 17-year-old, losing in straight sets to Jared Donaldson. In his first match at the event since, the 23-year-old broke his opponent’s serve four times to triumph after one hour and 35 minutes.
It was not an easy win, though. Wu let slip an opportunity to serve out the match at 5-3 in the second set against Edmund, who was playing his fourth match of the year. But the Chinese player did not allow the complication to fully shift the momentum to Edmund’s side. The former World No. 14, who is working back to form following injury, missed a backhand wide to fall in straight sets.
Did You Know?
This week last year, Wu was tied for No. 1,869 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. With his win against Edmund, he climbed to No. 57 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
Medvedev Not Ready To Toe The Line In Miami
Daniil Medvedev isn’t ready to throw out the playbook just yet.
Despite scavenging just five games from Carlos Alcaraz in Sunday’s one-sided BNP Paribas Open final, ‘Deep-court Daniil’ says that he won’t be altering his court position should he face the World No. 1 again at the Miami Open presented by Itau this fortnight.
“It's possible [that I may not play as deep] but I'm not sure if I would do it,” he said Wednesday of his next hard-court meeting with Alcaraz, whenever that might come. “For sure if I lose two matches in a row staying back and [I get beaten] just as easy I have to definitely change something. But one match is not enough."
Alcaraz exploited Medvedev’s positioning through a combination of well-timed serve/volley plays, his signature drop shots, and by taking advantage of the slower court conditions to take big cuts from the ground to clock a series of winners past the 2021 US Open champion.
But Medvedev believes that faster conditions at other hard-court events – including in Miami – will favour his preferred position deep behind the baseline.
"I'll only have to wait for a match on faster hard courts to see if my court positioning will work when the ball is flying faster through the air and the opponent won't have as much time to play serve and volley and play from the baseline,” he said. “During the match there was a small time when I tried to play a little more aggressive and closer to the baseline. But on those one or two games he was serving bombs so that didn't help me. And it's not that easy to change things up during a match.”
Despite his 6-3, 6-2 loss to Alcaraz in the Indian Wells title match, Medvedev arrives in Miami high on confidence, having won 19 of his past 20 matches, a run comprising titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai and the BNP Paribas Open final. That already is an improvement on the two titles he won last year. Medvedev, who is 23-4 on the season, said that rediscovering his consistency has underpinned his recent surge back into the Top 5 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
“I managed to get back in the zone, which I didn't really have for all of 2022, when I was less consistent,” he said. “I would have some good matches or tournaments but out of nowhere I would have one bad match. I've managed to avoid that the past four weeks. I have no idea how I have done it, but I am really happy and want to continue.”
Medvedev’s first-round opponent in Miami will be the winner of the all-Spanish clash between Roberto Carballes Baena and Bernabe Zapata Miralles. He is in the bottom half of the draw, so could only meet Alcaraz should both players reach the final.
Lajovic Upsets Murray In Miami Opener
World No. 76 Dusan Lajovic brushed aside his recent modest hard-court record to upset two-time former champion Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5 on Day 1 of men's main-draw action at the Miami Open presented by Itau on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old Serbian, who was once as high as No. 23 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, had won just four of 16 matches on hard courts since the start of 2022. But the 2019 Monte-Carlo finalist won his first career meeting with Murray to pick up his first hard-court win of the season.[ATP APP]
Lajovic’s victory was underpinned by his strong performance on second serve against one of the game’s best returners. He won 72 per cent of second-serve points and saved two of the three break points he faced, while converting all three opportunities on Murray's serve. He failed to serve out the match at 5-4 but after missing two match points from 40/0 in the final game, he closed out the match when Murray framed a forehand at the end of an extended rally.
“When I didn’t close it out I thought it’s happening again,” Lajovic said of Murray’s ability to pull victory from the jaws of defeat this year. “Honestly that last game I was super right at 40/0 and he was able to put pressure on me. Luckily he shanked the last forehand, which he normally doesn’t do.”
Murray ends the ATP Masters 1000 'Sunshine Doubles' with a 2-2 record in Indian Wells and Miami, having reached the third round at the BNP Paribas Open. The 35-year-old Scot slips to 8-5 on the season, highlighted by a run to the Doha final (l. Medvedev).
Lajovic, who also now has an 8-5 record on the season, next faces American serve/volleyer Maxime Cressy. “I don’t like playing guys like him. They try to provoke you and put you under pressure on your own service games. I’ll try to stay mentally stable.”
A second former tournament champion was bundled out on Day 1 of men's action when 21-year-old American Emilio Nava upstaged veteran countryman John Isner 7-6(5), 7-6(4). Nava did not face a break point and withstood 15 aces from the 2018 Miami champion to set a second-round meeting with another American, ninth seed Taylor Fritz.
Editor's note: This report was updated to correct the Lajovic-Murray match score to 6-4, 7-5.
Alcaraz First-Person Essay: 'I Am Ambitious And My Goals Are Big'
In the latest Players’ Voice first-person essay, Carlos Alcaraz provides Eurosport with insight into his mindset coming back from injury and his big ambitions in the sport. Below is an excerpt, reproduced with permission from Eurosport.
The injury has been a learning process. I had to be calm and it has helped me to mature a lot off the court. These were not easy days for me, they were quite hard. I had to stay focused and train to come back stronger. During my recovery, as I have done on several occasions, I worked a lot with my psychologist. She helps me a lot both on and off the court. The off-court side is almost more important, as you spend most of your time there.
I thought a lot about Nadal when I was recovering from my injury. Often when the best players have been out for a long time, they win their first tournament back. I wanted to be one of those players. Those examples of successful returns have motivated me – like what Rafa did at the 2022 Australian Open, and when Djokovic has returned from absences, he has won important tournaments. These examples are inspirations to think, 'let's get back training' because I also want to come back the best I can to try to win…
… In Miami, I’m going to have to start defending a lot of points. I think about that subconsciously because you want to be at the top of the rankings. But together with my team, we have always said that the important thing is the race to the Nitto ATP Finals. If you have a good year in the race, you will finish high in the rankings. I don't worry too much about defending points, I just think about enjoying the tournament I am playing, and trying to do the best I can…
…I want to beat Nadal and Djokovic, but I am not here to take any Grand Slams away from them or prevent either of them from being the best of all time. I am just trying to write my own history.
I want to win Slams. I am ambitious and my goals are big, I'm not going to lie. My dream is to be one of the best in history, to try to get somehow close to them. I know it will be very complicated - maybe even impossible - but in this world you have to think big and dream big. In the end, that is my dream today.
Nakashima Powers Past Otte In Miami
Brandon Nakashima brought his big-hitting best to his opening match Wednesday at the 2023 Miami Open presented by Itau, where the American prevailed 7-6(3), 6-3 against Oscar Otte to reach the second round at the ATP Masters 1000 event.
The 21-year-old Nakashima was rock-solid for much of an 88-minute encounter that was largely dominated by serve and raised his level during two crucial periods in the match to secure his victory. He fired a series of clean winners to dominate the first-set tie-break before striking some high-class returns to clinch the only break of serve in the match in the sixth game of the second set.
Nakashima did not face a break point en route to victory in his maiden ATP Head2Head clash with Germany’s Otte. The World No. 45 fired 28 winners, including 10 aces, to set a second-round matchup against 20th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
It was a welcome triumph for Nakashima, who will hope he can use it as a basis for improved results in a 2023 season for which he now holds a 3-4 record. The Californian is seeking to back up his strong 2022, when he clinched his maiden ATP Tour title in his hometown of San Diego before lifting the Next Gen ATP Finals trophy in Milan.
It will be a second tour-level meeting of the season between Nakashima and Davidovich Fokina. The Spaniard was a straight-sets winner in their January meeting at the Adelaide International 2.
Taro Daniel also advanced to the second round on Wednesday after the Japanese wild card’s opponent Arthur Rinderknech retired from the pair’s first-round match when trailing 1-4 in the opening set.
Daniel, who reached the third round as a qualifier last week in Indian Wells with a run that included a victory against Matteo Berrettini, will play 13th seed Alexander Zverev next.