Sinner downs Alcaraz to set up final with Medvedev

Published April 2, 2023
Sorana Cirstea of Romania reaches for a forehand against Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova during their Miami Open semi-final at the Hard Rock Stadium.—Reuters
Sorana Cirstea of Romania reaches for a forehand against Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova during their Miami Open semi-final at the Hard Rock Stadium.—Reuters

MIAMI: Italy’s Jannik Sinner turned on the style to end Carlos Alcaraz’s hopes of the “Sunshine Double” and his reign as world number one, triumphing 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-2 in their Miami Open semi-final on Friday.

Sinner will meet Russian Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final while Alcaraz will lose his number one ranking to Novak Djokovic.

Medvedev reached his fifth straight ATP Tour final with a 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-3 win over fellow Russian Karen Khachanov.

The disappointment for the 19-year-old Alcaraz, the defending champion in Miami and coming off a title at Indian Wells, will be tinged with frustration after he struggled in the third set with leg cramps.

It had been an enthralling and entertaining power-hitting performance from both men in the first set, with an incredible 25-shot excha­nge in the seventh game, bring the crowd to their feet.

The intense, high quality set was eventually won by the Spaniard after a tiebreak, but an inspired Sinner fought back in the second.

Sinner broke in the first game and although Alcaraz broke back to make it 2-2, the 21-year-old Italian sensed his moment was arriving and showed confidence in his powerful groundstrokes.

The world number one was moving with difficulty and was broken on his first serve in the deciding set. Looking in discomfort, he crouched down on his baseline in between points and shot some worried and confused looks to his team in the stands. Sinner chose some more conservative stro­k­es and although Alcaraz appeared to recover a little, the Italian ran out the winner in three hours.

Alcaraz said his problems had appeared during a bathroom break after the second set.

“I went to bathroom for five minutes and yeah, everything went down for me a little bit. I stopped myself. I started cramping a little bit. You know, after a really tough match it’s, well, it is tough to stop the match for five minutes,” he said.

“I started cramping at the beginning of the third set, but it wasn’t the reason for I lost the match. I came back...I started to feel better but of course Jannik, he was better than me in the third set. That’s the truth,” he said.

Sinner had lost to Alcaraz in straight sets in their meeting at the same stage in Indian Wells and he said he could feel just how high the quality of their encounter at Hard Rock Stadium had been.

“When both players play tennis like this it is very nice to play, you can feel it with the crowds. There was just a great energy with everything. It is just nice to be part of matches like this,” he said.The 27-year-old Medvedev, playing against his boyhood friend, survived a second-set comeback but his trademark precision stroke play saw him through against the big-serving Khachanov in a high quality encounter.

The contest saw a series of long rallies as Medvedev fended off Khachanov’s thumping shots from the baseline and then pinned his opponent back on his service game.

Medvedev hit 13 aces and saved four of six break points as the match turned decisively in his favor when he broke Khachanov in the fourth game of the third set.

KVITOVA CRUISES INTO DECIDER

Meanwhile in the women’s section, Petra Kvitova powered into the final with a straight sets victory over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

Czech veteran Kvitova advan­ced to a showdown against Wimbl­edon champion Elena Rybakina with a 7-5, 6-4 win in 1hr 41min.

In a battle of two of the WTA’s more experienced players, Cirstea, playing in her first WTA semi-final in a decade, was fastest out of the blocks, taking a 5-2 lead in the first set.

But the Romanian, who is enjoying a revival in form having also reached the last eight at Indian Wells, failed to convert on either of the two set points she had on serve at 5-4, with Kvitova breaking twice to take the set.

The Czech’s momentum carried over into the second set where she broke Cirstea in the opening game, her third straight break, and from then it was smooth sailing for the 33-year-old.

The two-time Wimbledon winner lost just seven points in five service games in the second set as she advanced to the Miami final for the first time.

It was a disappointing end for the 32-year-old Cirstea, whose performances have been transformed since she began working with Swedish coach Thomas Johansson in the off-season.

Kvitova’s victory gives her the chance of a ninth career WTA 1000 title in what will be her 13th final.

The Czech hasn’t won a WTA 1000 since triumphing in Madrid for a third time in 2018.

Rybakina beat American Jessica Pegula in straight sets in the other semi, played on Thursday.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2023

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