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Monday, June 24, 2024

Sabalenka exits Miami, Alcaraz starts event in style

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MIAMI —A traumatic week for world number two Aryna Sabalenka came to an end with a third round, three set loss in the Miami Open to Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina on Saturday.

The 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 win for the 36th ranked Kalinina prompted Sabalenka, who had kept her emotions in check through both of her games at Hard Rock Stadium, to smash her racket violently into the court.

On Monday, Belarusian Sabalenka’s former boyfriend, ex-NHL player Konstantin Koltsov, died in Miami after what police called an “apparent suicide”.

The pair had been in a relationship until recently and Sabalenka only announced they were no longer together following the death.

On Friday, she looked in control as she defeated her close friend Paula Badosa of Spain in straight sets.

But given the late slot on the main stadium court, Sabalenka looked to be feeling the strain more as she struggled for any kind of consistency.

After losing the opening set, she utterly dominated Kalinina in the second, with her serve and powerful backhand too much for the Ukrainian.

But once Kalinina broke in the third, Sabalenka’s focus and composure deserted her and her opponent took full advantage.

“It’s really tough with nerves. But I managed in the tough moments to deal with it,” said Kalinina. “So I’m a little bit proud of myself today.”

World number one Iga Swiatek had no trouble in beating Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-1 as the rain impacted tournament packed in the big names including postponed matches from Friday.

“I was feeling really pretty confident and I just wanted to see how I’m going to feel the surface. It was all really comfortable, so I’m happy,” said Swiatek.

Japan’s Noami Osaka continued her increasingly impressive form with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) win over 17th ranked Elina Svitolina, in a battle of two women who have returned to the tour after giving birth.

Sixth-seed Ons Jabeur suffered an upset with 21-year-old Russian Elina Avanesyan, ranked 65th in the world, running out a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 winner.

Elena Rybakina moved into the fourth round after a tight tussle with American Taylor Townsend.

Townsend, ranked 11th, won a second set tie-break to set up a fiercely contested deciding set before she succumbed with the Kazakh winning 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4.

In the ATP event, top seed Carlos Alcaraz was simply too much for his compatriot Roberto Carballes Baena as he powered to a 6-2, 6-1 win in 85 minutes.

Sunshine Double

Like Swiatek, Alcaraz is looking to complete the “Sunshine Double” after his victory in Indian Wells last week and the two-time Grand Slam winner looked in formidable form.

The 20-year-old was on top from the start, powerful from the baseline but willing to approach the net as he hit 10 winners to one in the opening set.

He saved all three break points that he faced against his 64th ranked opponent, who asked some tough questions at times but usually received an emphatic response.

Alcaraz will next face French veteran Gael Monfils, a 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 6-2 winner over Australian Jordan Thompson.

Italy’s Jannik Sinner, the Australian Open champion ranked third in the world, made a confident start to his bid in Miami with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over compatriot and qualifier Andrea Vavassori.

Progress was also straightforward for defending champion Daniil Medvedev who advanced into the third round with a 6-4 6-2 win over Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.

But it was a tough day for the American men.

Taylor Fritz was upset by Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild in straight sets as three of the four top ranked US men tumbled out of the tournament.

Fritz’s early departure came shortly after Francis Tiafoe went out to another lower-ranked player in Australian Christopher O’Connell.

O’Connell, battled to a 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) win over the 21st-seeded Tiafoe after play began following a three-hour rain delay.

Tommy Paul had to retire with an ankle injury in his match against fellow American, wild card Martin Damm. Paul had won the first set 6-4 and was 2-1 down in the second when he abandoned.

Greek 10th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas also headed for the exit door at the Hard Rock Stadium after he was upset by 126th ranked Denis Shapovalov of Canada.

Britain’s Andy Murray, a two-time winner in Miami, advanced to the third round with a 7-6 (7/0), 6-3 win over Tomas Martin Etcheverry.


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