Dimitrov stuns Alcaraz to book Zverev Miami semi-final

Published March 30, 2024
CARLOS Alcaraz of Spain reaches for a forehand against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dmitrov during their Miami Open quarter-final at the Hard Rock Stadium.—Reuters
CARLOS Alcaraz of Spain reaches for a forehand against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dmitrov during their Miami Open quarter-final at the Hard Rock Stadium.—Reuters

MIAMI: Carlos Alcaraz’s hopes for a Sunshine Double came undone in spectacular fashion as the top-seeded Spaniard fell 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday to Grigor Dimitrov, who will move on to face Alexander Zverev in the Miami Open semi-finals.

Dimitrov, the Bulgarian 11th seed, won 77 per cent of his first-serve points compared to just 56pc for Alcaraz, turned aside four of the five break points he faced and broke the Spaniard four times during the 92-minute encounter.

It was a crushing defeat for Alcaraz, who arrived in Miami full of confidence after lifting the Indian Wells title 11 days ago but fell three wins shy of becoming the first man to clinch the Sunshine Double since Roger Federer in 2017.

“Overall, to win against him, you have to play at your best. That’s just how it is,” Dimitrov said after his second victory over world number two Alcaraz in as many meetings.

“I came into the match focussed and I think it was extremely clear what I had to do. Sometimes simplicity is genius. It’s very hard to do it, especially when you play against an opponent like that, but I was able to dictate the game, read the game a bit better than the last time. Overall, a very great match on my end and I’m just happy I finished in straight sets.”

Alcaraz conceded he just had no answer to Dimitrov’s brilliant performance.

“I have a lot of frustrations right now, because he made me feel like I’m 13 years old. You know, it was crazy,” Alcaraz said. “I was talking to my team saying that I don’t know what I have to do. I don’t know, you know, his weakness. I don’t know anything. That’s why I have frustration right now.”

Up next for Dimitrov will be German fourth seed Zverev, who overcame tricky conditions to beat Hungary’s Fabian Marozsan 6-3, 7-5 in the day’s first match on the Stadium court.

Zverev attacked Marozsan’s serve and converted three of his seven break-point chances, swatted aside the two break points he faced and won 80pc of his first serve points en route to the last four in Miami where he has yet to drop a set.

Despite not dropping a set in windy conditions, Zverev had his hands full with Marozsan, who is making his Miami debut and enjoyed top-10 upsets over Holger Rune and Alex de Minaur on the way to the quarter-finals.

“If he continues playing like that he’s going to rise up the rankings very quickly and he’s going to be one of those [top 10] guys himself,” Zverev said in his on-court interview.

“When we are in control, I think all top players when they are in control they feel like they can manage the match, manipulate the match a little bit in their own favour. But against him that’s not possible. That’s why he has such a great top-10 record and he’s an unbelievable player.” Zverev’s win, sealed with a break when he unleashed a brilliant backhand down the line, marked his return to the Miami Open semi-finals for the first time since his runner-up finish in 2018.

COLLINS SETS UP FINAL WITH RYBAKINA

On the women’s side, Danielle Collins, in her final year on the WTA Tour before retirement, booked her first ever 1000 series final with a dominant 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The 30-year-old Collins, will face fourth-ranked Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s final. The Kazakhstan player was pushed all the way by veteran Victoria Azarenka before coming out with a 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (7/2) victory.

Collins marched into her maiden final in Miami with a clinical display against Alexandrova, firing off 21 winners to wrap up the match in just over an hour.

 ELENA Rybakina of Kazakhstan celebrates match point against Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka during their Miami Open semi-final.—AFP
ELENA Rybakina of Kazakhstan celebrates match point against Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka during their Miami Open semi-final.—AFP

“It’s special to do this in my home state,” said Collins, who will now bid for the third WTA title of her career ahead of her retirement at the end of the season. “I’ve had a lot of tough battles with Rybakina, but I did get a win on her in San Jose a while ago. I’ll have to do my homework on her.”

Rybakina, the highest seed remaining in the women’s draw, won nearly 82pc of her first-serve points but converted only two of her 11 break-point chances en route to securing victory in two hours 33 minutes against Azarenka.

The 24-year-old returns to the Miami final for the second straight year after losing to Czech Petra Kvitova in 2023.

“It was such a tough battle,” Rybakina, a Moscow-born Kazakh, said during her on-court interview after reaching her fourth final of the year. “I didn’t serve that well and also Vika, from the second set, she was hitting the serve very well. It was difficult but I knew was going to fight until the end and actually that’s what I did.”

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2024

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