By Daniel Perissé
Top seed Daniil Medvedev had to fight cramps and an inspired opponent to advance into the fourth round of the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itaú. The Russian needed two hours and 37 minutes to defeat Australian Alexei Popyrin 7-6(3), 6-7(7), 6-4 and keep his title hopes alive.
The World No. 2 wasted a 5-2 and a 5-4, 40-0 leads in the second set, but ended up with the win.
“Yeah, I was in big pain. The biggest pain was when I actually got a 4-3 break up, and after the first point I don’t know what happened, but I, like, I probably didn’t feel it that often in my life, maybe two or three times before, and my serve, which was actually I would say maybe even terrible during the match, saved me then. So thanks a lot to my serve”, he commented.
Next for him is American Frances Tiafoe, who had a late-night comeback win against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic, the No. 16 seed, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Also in the Men’s Singles draw, John Isner fired 18 aces and defeated Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(5), 7-6(5), advancing to the fourth round.
This was the second ATP meeting between Isner and Auger-Aliassime, again in Miami. In 2019, the Greensboro, NC, native also needed two tie-breakers to beat the Canadian in the semifinal at Hard Rock Stadium, 7-6(3), 7-6(4).
In the fourth round, Isner will play against Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who overcame German Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Court 1. The No. 7 seed has reached the finals of the Montpellier and Doha tournaments so far this season.
This will be the fifth time the American and the Spaniard will square off. Isner leads 3-1, which includes a 7-6(1), 7-6(5) victory in the 2019 Miami Open quarterfinals.
Another American that earned a spot in the fourth round is Taylor Fritz. The Rancho Santa Fe, CA, native beat British Cameron Norrie 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in one hour and 51 minutes. He won 60% of his break points during the match.
Fritz will face Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik. The No. 32 seed defeated unseeded Australian James Duckworth 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 23 minutes.
Youngsters Jannik Sinner and Emil Ruusuvuori won their matches and will square off for a place in the quarterfinals. The Italian defeated Russia’s Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, while the Finnish dismissed Swede Mikael Ymer 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.
In the women’s draw, the No. 23 seed Maria Sakkari needed 67 minutes to cruise past Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova 6-0, 6-1, and will now face Buffalo, NY, native Jessica Pegula, who upset Czech Karolina Pliskova, World No. 6, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
This was the third time Pegula triumphed over Pliskova this season: besides today’s victory, she had won 6-3, 6-1 in the Doha quarterfinals and 6-0, 6-2 in the Dubai third round.
The Greek won the only previous match between them, 6-2, 6-1, in 2019 in Melbourne.
Naomi Osaka advanced to the fourth round by walkover, as Serbian qualifier Nina Stojanovic withdrew due to a right thigh injury. The Japanese player set a fourth-round clash with Elise Mertens, from Belgium, who defeated Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 0-6, 6-2. Both players suffered with the South Florida heat, but the No. 16 seed prevailed in one hour and 47 minutes.
“I mean, it’s always a tough opponent. I have played her in, well, New York. So, yeah, I know how she plays. I mean, she’s in form, she’s winning a lot. It’s going to be an interesting match what I can do against her, but I’m definitely gonna give 100%”, said Mertens about the World No. 2.
Osaka has the 2-1 lead in the head-to-head series, but she lost the last match between them, by walkover, in the 2021 Gippsland Trophy, in Melbourne.
Unseeded Sara Sorribes Tormo also advanced to the fourth round after beating Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybarikina in a three-setter, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2. The 24-year-old Spaniard, who won her maiden title this season in Guadalajara, books a meeting against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who upset World No. 4 and Pembroke Pines native Sofia Kenin 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Another Spanish player to advance into the fourth round is Garbiñe Muguruza. The No. 12 seed defeated Russian wild card Anna Kalinskaya 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes of play. She now battles Bianca Andreescu for a place in the quarterfinals. The Canadian defeated American Amanda Anisimova 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-4 in two hours and 44 minutes.