For tennis up-and-comers like Stefanos Tsitsipas, the draw at the Miami Open began to look a lot less daunting even before the tournament began.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer withdrew because of injuries, and Novak Djokovic decided against making the trip from his native Serbia. They stayed home with their 58 Grand Slam trophies.
“It’s a first test to see how it is playing without them,” Tsitsipas said after his third-round victory on Saturday. “There is going to be a time in the future where this is going to be more frequent and happening more regularly, and maybe even a standard soon. So, yeah, we get a taste of how it is playing without them.”
The No. 2-seeded Tsitsipas is among those with the best chance to take advantage, and he looked the part against Damir Dzumhur, winning 6-1, 6-4.
Ranked a career-high No. 5, Tsitsipas improved to 15-4 this year — and 2-3 lifetime against Dzumhur. The 22-year-old Greek used his serve to dominate Dzumhur, who never had a break point.
“I created a lot of opportunities with my serve — I wasn’t rushing at all, finding the right angles and executing it perfectly,” Tsitsipas said. “Even with my second serve I felt like I did a lot of damage, not giving him a chance to press first and apply pressure with his shots.”
Tsitsipas will next face No. 28 Kei Nishikori, who outlasted Aljaz Bedene 7-6 (6), 5-7, 6-4.
Two other title contenders, No. 4 Andrey Rublev and No. 6 Denis Shapovalov, advanced in night matches.
Rublev failed to convert three match points in the final game and then had to sit for a one-hour rain delay before closing out his victory over Tennys Sandgren, 6-1, 6-2. Shapovalov also endured a rain interruption in the third set before finishing off Ilya Ivashka 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4.
Marin Cilic rallied to edge No. 13 Cristian Garin 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5).
Barty, Azarenka advance
In women's play, top-ranked Ash Barty and three-time champion Victoria Azarenka advanced to a round of 16 showdown.
Barty beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 and had a much easier time than in the previous round, when she saved a match point to beat qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty's first match away from her native Australian since February 2020. She kept Ostapenko on the move and on the defensive, pulling in the former French Open champion and moving her from side to side.
Barty is the defending champion as the 2019 winner. The tournament was cancelled last year at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 14th-seeded Azarenka beat No. 24 Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-2. The match was Azarenka's first this week after a bye and walkover. She won Miami in 2009, 2011 and 2016.
No. 3-seeded Simona Halep withdrew before her third-round match because of a right shoulder injury.
Wild card Ana Konjuh upset No. 15 Iga Swiatek. Konjuh’s career has been slowed by four elbow surgeries, and this week she has earned her first three wins in main-draw WTA play since 2018. “It has been frustrating the past couple of years, just having been through all these surgeries and comebacks and just never getting it right,” Konjuh said. “So just to be back, you know, healthy and to compete at this level, it means a lot.”
No. 5 Elina Svitolina eliminated No. 30 Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-6 (1), 6-4, and No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka ousted No. 32 Veronika Kudermetova 7-6 (4), 6-4.