Aoyama and Shibahara, 2021 Miami Open Women's Doubles Champions

Japanese Duo Wins Women’s Doubles Title

By Daniel Perissé

>> Match photos

Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara won the Miami Open presented by Itaú Women’s Doubles title with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Chattanooga, Tn., native Hayley Carter and Brazilian Luisa Stefani this Sunday, April 4th, on Grandstand.

Seeded fifth in the draw, Aoyama and Shibahara gave no chance to the rivals during the first set. They broke Carter’s serve twice, in the third and seventh games, and took the lead in 32 minutes. The Japanese duo had 15 winners, against only four from the Brazilian and the American.

In the second set, Carter and Stefani played better and had 5-2, up a break. However, Aoyama and Shibahara fought back and won five games in a row to clinch their third title of the season.

“Yeah, as you know, we have played Hayley and Luisa many, many times and knew that they were going to fight till the end, get every ball back. I think we started off really well, finding those passing shots when we needed them. Second set they definitely played a lot better, but Shuko really played really well to bring us back in that second set. Then I feel like we fought well together in the end,” said Shibahara.

This was the second final between these players this year – in January, Aoyama and Shibahara won in Abu Dhabi. Their other title was the Yarra Valley Classic. With the title, both players will move to the top 15 and reach career-high positions in doubles.

“Yeah, I think it's important, our tennis momentum, yeah, so if we have good momentum, maybe we can go good through the tournament. So we try to keep doing that at the clay season, yeah,” affirmed Aoyama.

The Miami Open winners now hold a 4-1 record against Carter and Stefani. Besides the Abu Dhabi final, they played this season in the round of 16 at the Australian Open.

The American and the Brazilian reach their third final in 2021 – they also lost in Adelaide. They will move to the top 30 for the first time.


Hubert Hurkacz 2021 Miami Open Men's Champion

Hurkacz Keeps Shining in Florida with Miami Open Title

By Daniel Perissé

>> Match photos

Hubert Hurkacz will always have great memories of Florida. This Sunday, April 4th, he won the Miami Open presented by Itaú Men’s Singles title after defeating Italy’s Jannik Sinner 7-6(4), 6-4, clinching his second tournament in the Sunshine State this season and his maiden Masters-level championship.

In January, Hurkacz won the Delray Beach Open. He is now the only player in history to have reached the final and conquered both tournaments in the same year, ending the “Florida Slam” with a 10-0 record.

“Yeah, I mean, like last year I spent so much time in Florida. I was here like almost half of the year. So, like, that was I think pretty -- I mean, we were working hard, and I think I'm used to the conditions. So that's I think been part of the success I had here.”

With the result, he is also the first Polish to win a Masters 1000 title. En route to the final, the 24-year-old prevailed over World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals and over World No. 8 Andrey Rublev in the semifinal.

Hurkacz opened a 3-0 lead in the first set, but the 19-year-old Italian leveled the action to make it 3-3. Later, Sinner broke the Polish in the 11th game and served 6-5 to take the first set but did not hold it.

In the tie-break, Hurkacz took advantage of Sinner’s many mistakes to close the decider 7-4. In total, the Italian had 28 unforced errors in the first set.

Hurkacz opened a comfortable 4-0 lead in the second set, breaking the 19-year-old twice. But as in the first set, the Italian tried to come back and cut the difference into 4-3, breaking the Polish in the sixth game.

But Hurkacz kept his consistency and was able to confirm his serve again, opening a 5-3 lead. Sinner then held his serve, but the Polish took advantage of the first and only championship point to hold his serve and clinch the result in one hour and 44 minutes.

“To be able to win against Jannik, you need to come up with some really good stuff. I mean, he's an amazing player and an amazing person. Such a great competitor. I mean, he's going to have an amazing future. I was just trying to keep his pace and be able to fight for each ball. That's what I was trying to do there,” explained Hurkacz.

With the Miami Open title, the 24-year-old is expected to rise to World No. 16 in the next ATP Rankings.

Sinner will also reach a career-high ranking as No. 21. Although defeated in what also was his first Masters 1000 final, he praised his “good friend” Hurkacz and even invited him to play more together on the tour:

“Many congratulations to him for this week, you showed the great talent you have and I’m prouder of the kind of person you are. You are my best friend on tour, and I think we should play more doubles together,” said the Italian. This season, they took part in two tournaments together, reaching the quarterfinals in Dubai and Melbourne-1.

For Hurkacz, this was the result of a lot of hard work. He hopes the Miami Open is just the first of many other major titles to come.

“Obviously like now I’m lifting the biggest trophy of my life so far. Like, I mean, I will just try to still get better each day and try to work on things with my coach to be a better player, better competitor. I will focus on the step that we're doing, so we are just trying to improve each day and, yeah, this tournament was the effect of that. Like, I mean, so super, super happy with it.”


Mektic and Pavic, 2021 Miami Open Men's Doubles Champions

Croatians Win Men's Doubles, Clinch 4th Title in 2021

By Daniel Perissé

>> Match photos

Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic were crowned champions of the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itaú Men’s Doubles draw, beating Brits Daniel Evans and Neal Skupski 6-4, 6-4. It’s their fourth title together in the 2021 season.

Mektic and Pavic came as favorites after winning the Antalya, Melbourne-2 and Rotterdam titles. They also reached the Dubai final and the Australian Open semifinals.

On Grandstand, the Croatians had heavy opposition from Evans and Skupski, who were playing their first tournament as a team and scratched off a couple of seeded teams on the way. Mektic and Pavic had a one-break advantage to take the match lead.

In the second set, the Croatian duo was able to break Evans’ serve in the tenth game to clinch the result and reach an impressive 25-3 record on the season.

“They played some great games today, they are a tough team. Had a few good wins this week. We were very solid,” said Pavic, who will go to No. 1 in the individual doubles rankings on Monday.

Mektic and Pavic started playing together in January, and this was their eighth tournament. They did not drop a single set this week at Hard Rock Stadium.

“I really did expect great partnership and great results from the start. We are just two players that clicked very well,” affirmed Mektic.

For Evans and Skupski, reaching the final was more than unexpected: they teamed up after Neal’s older brother Ken had a blood clot in his right leg and had to pull out of the tournament after a title run in Acapulco the week before. They were the first Brits, together or separately, to reach the Miami Open doubles final in tournament history (since 1985).


Ashleigh Barty 2021 Miami Open Women's Champion

Barty Wins Second Straight Miami Open Title

By Daniel Perissé

>> Match photos

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty successfully defended her title at the Miami Open presented by Itaú Women’s Singles draw as Canada’s Bianca Andreescu had to retire from the final when the Australian was up 6-3, 4-0 due to a right foot injury.

“Yeah, it's never the way you ever want to finish a match, particularly in a final. I really do feel for Bianca. I think she's had such a rough trot with injuries in the past. I think that's going to be one of the first of many battles for us. I just hope from now on they are healthy, and we can both stay out on the court and fight for everything that we can give,” said the Australian, who consoled the rival at the net.

This is the sixth time a player wins back-to-back titles in Miami. With today’s result, Barty reaches a 12-match winning streak in the Magic City. The draw had 19 of the top 21 women in the world.

The Australian took the lead from the beginning, getting a break to lead 3-0. Andreescu won two games in a row, but Barty got another break in the sixth game. She held that advantage until the ninth game, when she served to clinch the first set in 36 minutes.

In the second set, the World No. 1 broke Andreescu’s serve in the first game and then confirmed. During the third game, the Canadian fell in the middle of a point after twisting her right ankle. She ended getting her serve broken and down 3-0.

After receiving medical treatment during the changeover, the Canadian decided to get back on court. But Barty confirmed her serve to open a 4-0 advantage and she retired due to her injury. When they were at the net, the Australian said that she felt for her and hoped she will get back on track.

“I really didn't want to stop, but Abdul, my fitness trainer, he basically saved me from myself in a way, because I have been through that, just continuously pushing myself and to the point where like I'd make it worse. I knew it was the best decision. Hopefully next time I can go out there and play better tennis, and hopefully I'm healthy and I can win the next one,” said the Canadian.

For Andreescu, it was the second time playing on American soil after winning the 2019 US Open title, her first Grand Slam. During the week at Hard Rock Stadium, four out of her five matches went to three sets – including the semifinal against Greece’s Maria Sakkari, in which she was 4-2 down in the decider.

“It feels like I played three tournaments in one with all the time I had on court, which is awesome considering I haven't been playing a lot of over the last couple of months. It's nice to have all of this under my belt. I'm feeling confident. And I'm here for it, and I want to be here for it for a long time.”

Besides winning for the second time here, Barty also celebrates the confirmation as World No. 1 after the tournament, as rival Naomi Osaka did not reach the semifinal. This is her second title of the season, after getting the crown at the Yarra Valley Classic, in Melbourne, Australia.

“The fact now we have had a really successful couple of weeks, I felt like with each match I have been playing better and better, which is ultimately what we are after, and to be able to have the title at the end is a bonus, and to be able to defend my title the first time in my career I've been able to do that is really, really special too,” said the Australian about her accomplishment.

After Miami, Barty starts the clay season in Charleston and then moving to Europe, where she will play in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome. But she will always have great memories of Miami.

“It's a very, very special place, particularly here at Hard Rock Stadium. Obviously very good memories for me here. I love the climate here. It's very similar to that of Brisbane, where I grew up. I feel very comfortable in this environment. Without a doubt I enjoy the conditions here. It's a beautiful place to play tennis.”


Jannik Sinner and Hubert Hurcacz

Friends Sinner and Hurkacz Clash for First Miami Open

By Daniel Perissé

Last month, good friends Jannik Sinner and Hubert Hurkacz teamed up and lost in the Dubai doubles draw quarterfinals. Tomorrow, they will be on opposite sides of the court fighting for the biggest title of their young careers in the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itaú Men’s Singles final.

With several confirmed withdrawals prior to the tournament, it was a chance for young players to rise and shine in the South Florida Masters. Two weeks later, the final squares off 19-year-old Sinner with 24-year-old Hurkacz, both among the top 40 and having some of their best results so far.

“Well, you know, we knew that many players are not coming here, especially the big three. You know, we approached this tournament, you know, to go very, very far,” said the Italian.

And there seems to be no limits for Sinner. This season, he was crowned champion in Melbourne and reached a career-high ranking as World No. 31. In the semifinal, he beat seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

“It obviously feels great, but as I always say, you know, I'm 19. You know, the road to have this big name is long, you know. It's not done in one week of tournament. Is a long process to come there, to become there,” expressed Sinner, who is the fourth teenager to reach an ATP Masters final.

The Italian will reach a new career-high ranking no matter what his result is. If he loses the final, he will climb ten positions, to No. 21, or move to No.14 in case he wins.

Hurkacz’s run in the Magic City has not been easy. En route to the final, he prevailed over World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals and over World No. 8 Andrey Rublev in the semifinal.

“I think now I'm in the moment. I'm just obviously super happy to be where I am now, but now we try to prepare as best as we can. He hits the ball very hard from both sides. I have to try to stay aggressive and try to play my best tennis,” said the Polish about his match against Sinner.

“We are good friends, so I wish him well. I think he's super, super calm and super chill, and he’s also a good person. So, I mean, he's really a nice guy and he really wants it hard to compete to win. So, I mean, he's really, really a great guy. The results that he has are obviously because of his hard work.”

The 24-year-old comes into the final defending a 9-0 match record playing in Florida this season, which includes a championship campaign at the Delray Beach Open in January. He is the second player to reach both finals in the same year.

“I mean, last year I spent over five months here (in Florida). I got used to the weather and the conditions, so I think that's kind of an advantage for me. But each site is different. The balls are different, but I enjoy being here and playing here,” said Hurkacz, who is expected to move from No. 37 to No. 25 in the rankings just by reaching the final. If he wins, he will be the World No. 16.

The decisive clash for the 2021 Miami Open Men’s Singles title is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Grandstand.

Charles Eastman will handle double-duty this afternoon prior to the Men’s Final. The Atlanta native will perform “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen, followed by the National Anthem.

The 17-year old TikTok sensation plays varsity tennis and is actively involved in the musical theater program at his school. In his spare time, Charles enjoys singing, playing keyboard and guitar; and hanging out with his friends.

 


Aoyama and Shibahara

Japanese Duo In Quest for 3rd Title in 2021

By Daniel Perissé

Japan’s Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama will play against Chatanooga, Tn. Native Hayley Carter and Brazilian Luisa Stefani in the Miami Open presented by Itaú Women’s Doubles final aiming for their third title this season.

In the first semifinal, Shibahara and Aoyama defeated Rochester, Ny., native Bethanie Mattek-Sands – who was seeking her second title in Miami, after winning in 2016 – and Polish Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion in singles, 3-6, 7-6(4), 10-2.

The strong Japanese doubles team won back-to-back titles in Abu Dhabi and at the Yarra Valley Classic this season and reached the Australian Open quarterfinals. This is the first tournament in which they advance from their first match since the Grand Slam run.

The second semifinal had Carter and Stefani defeating Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Mexican Giuliana Olmos also in the match tie-break, 2-6, 6-3, 10-8.

Carter and Stefani started playing together last year and are already ranked among the top 40 in the WTA doubles rankings. They won two titles, one in 2019 and one in 2020, and reached the Abu Dhabi and Adelaide finals this season.

In the head-to-head series, Aoyama and Shibahara lead the series 3-1, including two wins this season – in the Abu Dhabi final, 7-6(5), 6-4) and in the Australian Open round of 16, 6-2, 6-4.

The Women’s Doubles final is scheduled for Sunday, April 4th, at Hard Rock Stadium.


Hubert Hurkacz

Hurkacz Cruises into Miami Open Final Against Sinner

By Daniel Perissé

With a solid performance, Hubert Hurkacz booked a meeting with Jannik Sinner in the Miami Open presented by Itaú Men’s Singles final after defeating Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4.

The Polish was the lowest-ranked player among the semifinalists, at No. 37, but prevailed over the Russian, current World No. 8. In the semifinal, he had beaten World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, also in the top ten.

After seven minutes of play, the Polish already had a break and was up 3-0. Hurkacz extended the lead to 5-1, but Rublev came back to 5-3. The Polish, however, was able to close the set in the following game, after losing four other set points.

In the second set, Hurkacz quickly had a 4-2 lead, while Rublev did not seem to have any power to stop the Polish. When the Russian was serving at 3-5, Hurkacz lost his first set point.

The 24-year-old Polish needed two more set points serving at 5-4 to clinch his first ATP Masters final.

With today’s result, Hurkacz is now 9-0 playing in South Florida this season – in January, he won the Delray Beach Open.

“Yeah, I think now I'm in the moment. I'm just trying obviously super happy to be where I am now, but now we try to prepare as best as we can for that final match on Sunday,” said the first Polish to reach a Masters final since 2012.

The 24-year-old plays now Jannik Sinner, who needed three sets to overcome Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. This will be their first meeting.

“Jannik hits the ball very hard from both sides. I Have to try to stay aggressive, and yeah, like try to play my best tennis.”

The Men’s Singles final is scheduled for Sunday, April 4th.


Barty Faces Andreescu in Long-Awaited Final

By Daniel Perissé

Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu are two of the most talented players in the WTA but never played against each other. This Saturday, April 3rd, this wait will be over as they will meet in the Women’s Singles final at the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itaú.

The World No. 1 is the current Miami Open champion and has never successfully defended a title in her career. However, en route to the final this year she already beat World No. 8 Aryna Sabalenka and World No. 5 Elina Svitolina. She is also on a 11-game winning streak and has confirmed the top position of the WTA ranking at least for another month.

“I think the confidence, without a doubt, comes from the practice, the practice and the training, knowing that I have worked extremely hard with my team to refine my game. It's not going to ruin my day whether I win a tennis match or not, and of course it's disappointing, I want to try and be the best that I can be, and the competitor in me loves to win,” said the Australian.

Barty, who already has won a tournament this season – the Yarra Valley Classic, in Melbourne -, affirmed that the 20-year-old Canadian “has the ability to beat the very best” in the game.

“I know from the little that I have seen that she's got a way of moving around the court that's extremely physical. She's got great hands and she's got options off both sides. I think that's what makes her game exceptionally challenging is that she has so many different assets and so many different things that she can ultimately let her competitor in her figure it out.”

This will be the first Miami Open semifinal for Andreescu, who won the 2019 US Open. Since the third round, all her matches at Hard Rock Stadium were three-setters that have been real emotional roller coasters – including the semifinal against Greece's Maria Sakkari, in which she was twice a break down in the third set.

“I have a lot of experience in these tough three-setters and digging through and finding a way. Sometimes I literally feel like I'm an octopus out there running side to side, I feel like I have eight legs. It's insane. Sometimes I don't even know how I get to some shots. But it's that fighting spirit I have always had in me, never giving up,” said Andreescu, who plays on US soil for the first time since her victory in Flushing Meadows.

Quitting is something that will not be seen on court tomorrow. The Women’s Singles final is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on the Grandstand court at Hard Rock Stadium.

Before the match starts, Nehemie Celestin returns for a third time to sing the National Anthem. The Miami native, a Rebellion Recording Artist, is a 4-time Showtime at the Apollo winner; and has graces the stage for the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins.


Daniel Evans and Neal Skupski

British Underdogs Challenge Croatians in Men’s Doubles Final

By Daniel Perissé

The unseeded British duo of Daniel Evans and Neal Skupski had no expectations for the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itaú. A couple of upsets later, they are now in the Men’s Doubles final against Croatians Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic, who seek their fourth title this season.

Neal Skupski came fresh off winning the Acapulco title with older brother Ken, but a blood clot in his right leg prevented the team from competing in Miami. So, his countryman decided to take on the challenge.

Evans stepped in as the perfect replacement: their first upset happened in the second round against multiple Grand Slam winners Brazilian Bruno Soares and British Jamie Murray, seeded fifth in the tournament.

In the semifinal, the Brits defeated upset Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Slovakia’s Flilp Polasek, the 2021 Australian Open champions, 7-6(4), 1-6, 10-8.

Now they play their first final together against Pavic and Mektic, who in 2021 have won the Antalya, Melbourne and Rotterdam titles, were the finalists in Dubai and reached the Australian Open semifinals. They beat Denver, Co., native Rajeev Ram and British Joe Salisbury 6-3, 7-6(5) to book a spot in the final.

The Miami Open Men’s Doubles final will happen not before 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 3rd, on Grandstand, after the Women’s final.


Jannik Sinner

Sinner Holds Off Bautista Agut to Reach Miami Open Final

By Daniel Perissé

A powerful, fearless Jannik Sinner advanced to the Men’s Singles final at the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itaú after a thrilling three-setter against Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

This the Italian’s first Masters 1000 final of his career and the first in the Magic City. So far this season, the 19-year-old won the title at the Melbourne 1 tournament, the second of his career.

Facing the most experienced player among the semifinalists, at 32 years old, Sinner had to be patient. Bautista Agut began breaking the Italian’s serve and the 19-year-old had two break points in the following game, but the Spaniard opened a 2-0 lead.

In the sixth game, Sinner returned the break and the score was 3-3. However, Bautista Agut took advantage of the Italian’s many unforced errors in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead. Then he served to win the set in 52 minutes.

The Spaniard kept the same rhythm in the beginning of the second set. In the seventh game, Sinner was down three break points and held serve. That was enough motivation for him to come back, breaking Bautista Agut later at 5-4 and then holding his serve to level the match.

Although Bautista Agut broke one of the Italian’s serves 0-40 to lead 2-1 in the third set, Sinner demonstrated the power of his groundstrokes to break again the Spaniard in the tenth game to clinch the result. He ended with 37 winners and five aces.

“Here I felt well from the beginning of the week on court. You know, I think obviously it's a great result here, but, you know, first I have one more match in front of me. The other thing is that it doesn't mean anything. I mean, obviously it's very nice to be part of this final, to play a final, to play for a win, but, you know, it's all about -- I just try to improve every day,” said the Italian, who is the fourth teenager to reach the final in Miami.

Sinner’s rival comes from the match between Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz. The Russian and the Polish will play later today, at 7 p.m., on Grandstand.