Carlos Alcaraz Defeats Casper Ruud to Become Youngest Miami Open Champion

It’s a win for the history books for Carlos Alcaraz

The 18-year-old Spanish tennis phenom and No. 14 seed defeated sixth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway 7-5, 6-4 in Sunday’s final, giving Spain its first ever Miami Open men’s champion.

Carlos Alcaraz

By claiming the first ATP Masters 1000 career title of his career, Alcaraz also becomes the youngest champion in the event’s history.

Alcaraz wasn’t even in the top 100 in the ATP Rankings at this time last year, but he now heads into the clay-court season playing as strongly as any other player.

“I love Miami,” Alcaraz said.

The melting pot city of Miami — with its massive Spanish-speaking community — loved him back, and Alcaraz said that made a big difference throughout his two-week stay.

“I felt like I was home from the first minute I began playing,” Alcaraz said.

He became the youngest champion in Miami Open history — Novak Djokovic was 19 when he won the tournament, then the NASDAQ-100 Open, for the first time — and picked up $1,231,245 for the victory, nearly doubling his career earnings with one check.

The shot-making ability from the Spanish teen was on full display: daring drop shots in tense situations, deft touch at the net when needed, raw power from the baseline when warranted. Alcaraz often would look to his team in the stands and give a joyous yell or a knowing fist-pump, clearly feeling more comfortable as the afternoon went along.

Among those there with him: his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero. He had been away while mourning the death of his father, but made it back to Miami in time for the final. And when the match was over, Alcaraz hopped into the stands to give Ferrero his first hug as a Miami champion, as his coach wiped away tears.

“It’s pretty amazing to share this with you,” Alcaraz told Ferrero.

There had been four other Spanish men to make the final at what now is called the Miami Open — the tournament has changed names a few times over the years — over the last quarter-century. Sergi Bruguera was the first, in 1997. Carlos Moya was next, in 2003. David Ferrer got there in 2013 and the best player of them all, Rafael Nadal, made it to the Miami final in 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017.

They all lost. Every time.

Alcaraz ended the drought and did so with authority.

He ripped a crosscourt forehand for a double-break lead of 3-0 in the second set. Ruud broke back for 3-1, and had a chance at setting up another breaker late in the set.

With Alcaraz hitting a second serve at 4-3, 30-30, Ruud guessed the incoming ball’s path correctly and ran around his backhand to try what would have been a down-the-line winner. He put it just wide, and a point later Alcaraz was up 5-3. Before long, it was over.

“You’re such a good player already,” Ruud told Alcaraz during the trophy ceremony. “You’re so young and if you continue like this you will stand there many more times. I’m sure of it.”

Alcaraz lost one set in six matches in Miami, improved to 18-2 overall this year and became the third-youngest winner of any ATP Masters 1000 series event — which goes back to 1990. The only younger winners: Michael Chang and Nadal.

“For me, he’s one of the top four people that you have to talk about at every major now, along with Djokovic, Nadal and (Daniil) Medvedev,” raved tennis great Martina Navratilova on Tennis Channel after the match. “He’s the fourth one, for me.”

Rankings-wise, both players leave Miami better than ever. Ruud is expected to climb one spot to a career-best No. 7 in the world when the computer numbers are updated Monday; Alcaraz will be a career-best No. 11.

For Alcaraz, the rise has been meteoric. He was ranked No. 133 at this time a year ago.

But he made big jumps — getting to the third round of last year’s French Open as a qualifier pushed him into the top 75, making the US Open quarterfinals got him into the top 50, winning a tournament in Rio de Janeiro in February got him into the top 20, and he leaves Miami flirting with the top 10.

“You’re a great champion … and I hope you return for many years to the Miami Open,” tournament director James Blake told Alcaraz after the match, apologizing for the quality of his Spanish.

Rafael Nadal Starts Season with Impressive 18-0 Record

Rafael Nadal is still finding ways to impress after all these years…

Nursing a nagging foot injury, the 35-year-old Spanish professional tennis player became only the second player in ATP Tour history to start a season 18-0.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal edged past Reilly Opelka 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) on Wednesday in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.

Only Novak Djokovic has gotten off to better starts since 1990. The Serb went 26-0 to begin 2020 and 41-0 to open 2011.

“I can’t say it’s a dream because I even couldn’t dream about that three months ago, two months ago,” Nadal said. “I am just enjoying every single moment.”

Last year, Nadal’s playing time was interrupted by COVID-19 and injuries, creating doubt about his ability to recover well enough to maintain his exacting standards. But he won his record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January and has continued on a tear.

“I am just very happy to be playing tennis,” said Nadal, who turns 36 in June. “Today was a little bit worse than other days. It’s true that the last couple of days the foot has been bothering me a little bit more.”

Nadal has already withdrawn from the Miami Open that follows Indian Wells. He wants extra time to prepare for the clay court season that isn’t as punishing as hard courts.

Nadal rallied from a 2-4 deficit in the second set to lead 6-5. Opelka held after three deuces when Nadal netted a forehand chasing the American’s drop shot to force the second tiebreaker.

Nadal led 4-1 in the tiebreaker when Opelka struggled on his service returns. On his serve, though, the 6-foot-11 American closed to 4-3, hitting winners on a drop shot and a forehand.

Again on his serve, Opelka closed to 6-5.

But Nadal closed it out by pulling Opelka out of the court and the American’s backhand landed wide.

“It’s about trying to hit balls that you don’t take a lot of risks, but at the same time don’t allow him to go in and go for the shot,” Nadal said. “Is trying to find the right balance between these two things.”

There were no service breaks in the first set. Opelka fought off the only break point in the seventh game with a smash and forehand winner. Nadal held at love for 6-all, forcing the tiebreaker. Opelka led 3-2 with a forehand winner down the line. Nadal won the next five points, all on errors by Opelka, to take the set.

Nadal improved to 19-0 against American opponents since losing to John Isner at the 2017 Laver Cup.

 

Nadal, a three-time champion in the desert, advanced to the quarterfinals against wild-card Nick Kyrgios. The Australian advanced to his first ATP Tour quarterfinal since winning Washington in 2019 after 10th-seeded Jannik Sinner withdrew because of illness.

Paula Badosa Upsets World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty at Volvo Car Open

Paula Badosa has taken down the World No. 1.

The 23-year-old Spanish tennis player, currently ranked No. 71 in the world, defeated top-ranked Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-3 at the Volvo Car Open on Friday.

Paula Badosa

Badosa reached the tournament semifinals in her first time at the season’s opening clay-court tournament. And she was rarely pressured by Australia’s Barty on the way to her first victory over a No. 1 player.

Badosa broke Barty’s serve five times, including the last two times Barty served after the second set was tied 3-all.

“I’m still a little bit shocked. I can’t believe what just happened,” Badosa said. “When the ball went out, I was like, ‘What just happened right now?'”

It was the second time in her past four events that Badosa advanced to the semifinals. She’ll face Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, the 15th seed, on Saturday for a spot in the championship final.

Barty was coming off a victory at the Miami Open last Saturday and looked strong in her first two matches in Charleston. But she fell behind Badosa and struggled to handle her opponent’s serve.

As Badosa got closer to the upset, she worried about Barty’s ability to rally. “Sometimes these matches are very tough to close,” Badosa said. “Today, I’m quite happy that I managed it well.”

Badosa is looking for their first career WTA titles.

Roberto Bautista Agut Outlasts John Isner to Reach Miami Open Quarterfinals

Roberto Bautista Agut almost didn’t make it to the Miami Open quarterfinals.

The 32-year-old panish professional tennis player and tournament’s No. 7 seed had to fight off a match point before ousting former Miami champion and No. 18 seed John Isner 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7) on Tuesday — his second three-set win in as many matches so far in the tournament.

Roberto Bautista Agut

Bautista Agut will next face top-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who wore down Frances Tiafoe 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.

Bautista Agut lost the first point of the third-set tiebreaker on his serve, giving the big-hitting Isner the early edge. Isner lost the mini-break by putting a forehand into the net five points later, then gave himself match point after a 138 mph ace for a 6-5 edge.

Bautista Agut wasn’t fazed, won three of the last four points and escaped.

“He makes always difficult matches playing against him,” Bautista Agut said. “He has a very big serve and a lot of power from baseline with the forehand. It makes it always difficult, no?”

It was Isner’s earliest Miami exit since 2017, when he lost in the third round. He won the tournament in 2018 and lost the final in 2019 to Roger Federer in straight sets.

After some early clouds cleared out and bright sunshine starting pounding down, the mid-afternoon temperature reached the mid-80s Fahrenheit at Hard Rock Stadium and the humidity made it feel even hotter.

Roberto Bautista Agut Defeats Novak Djokovic to Reach Miami Open Quarterfinals

Roberto Bautista Agut has pulled off a major upset…

The 30-year-old Spanish tennis player outlasted World No. 1 Novak Djokovic1-6, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Miami Open.

Roberto Bautista Agut

“I played more aggressive. I tried to miss fewer balls, to be really concentrated on the beginning of the point with my serve, with my return. At the end, it worked well,” Bautista Agut said.

Djokovic held for 5-5 in the second set following a rain delay that lasted about 40 minutes and earned a break point in the next game, which if converted would’ve allowed him to serve for a straight-sets victory. But Bautista Aguthit a short slice that Djokovic missed into the net with his forehand. 

From there, Bautista Agut raised his level and aggression to triumph after two hours and 29 minutes.

“He’s a solid player. Congratulations to him definitely for a great comeback,” Djokovic said. “But this kind of match I should not have lost. So many opportunities. Just way too many wasted opportunities. This is what happens when you don’t capitalise on time.”

It’s Bautista Agut’s second three-sets victory against Djokovic this season, having also defeated Djokovic in Doha to start the year en route to lifting the trophy. 

“It helped me at the end of the match, no? I had confidence to play at a really high level at the end of the match, and I could close the match well with my serve,” Bautista Agut said.

He’ll next face defending champion John Isner, whom he hasn’t played since 2016, in the quarterfinals

Isner leads the ATP Head2Head series 2-1.

Monica Puig Stuns Caroline Wozniacki in Straight Sets to Reach the Wuhan Open Quarterfinals

Monica Puig has done it again…

The 25-year-old Puerto Rican tennis player stunned No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki for the second time this year in the third round of the Wuhan Open, pounding her way into the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (10), 7-5 win in two hours and 24 minutes.

Monica Puig

Though Puig had trailed Wozniacki 2-3 in the overall head-to-head before today, she had scored a memorable upset in their most recent meeting, coming from a bagel set down to defeat the Australian Openchampion 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Miami Open. Puig also came into today’s match in strong form, having won 13 of her past 16 matches – including a semifinal showing in New Haven and a quarterfinal berth in Québec City.

“I feel like we’ve played each other several times now,” Puig said. “I think Wozniacki is maybe one of the only players I’ve played so frequently against on the tour. We definitely have had our fair share of battles throughout the times that we’ve played.

“We both know each other’s game very well… I just had to try to stay focused and be really aggressive on those certain key points that I wasn’t today at some times, but I was happy I was able to get it out.”

With the win, Puig, who scored 37 winners during the match, has progressed to the first Premier 5 quarterfinal of her career.

“That’s the one thing I’m trying to work on with my team as much as possible: no matter what’s going on in the match, just continue like if nothing ever happened,” Puig said of seeing several match points come and go. “That’s not always easy, especially in moments where you want to really pull your hair out.

“Honestly, on the match points that I had, I thought she played really aggressive. She really took it to me. But whenever I lost those points, would go back and go, ‘There’s another point to play, still tennis left to be played. Don’t get caught up in that one point because that one point, either you’re going to let it dictate the rest of the match or you’re going to put it in the past and move forward.’”

In the quarterfinals, Puig – who sealed the fifth consecutive Centre Court match in which the lower-ranked player emerged the victor in Wuhan today – will face home favorite Wang Qiangin an all-unseeded battle.

“I don’t think I’ve played [Wang] in a tournament, but we have practiced against each other,” Puig said. “She’s a very nice girl. I have a lot of respect for her, especially with what she’s been doing in the past couple weeks. She won last week in Guangzhou.

“Just practicing with her, she hits a big ball. She can do whatever she wants with the ball if you give her the opportunity. She’s definitely going to be a tough test for me, especially her playing at home, she’s going to have the home-court advantage.

“I’m just looking forward to getting out there and continuing to play. I’m having a lot of fun right now. Tomorrow is my birthday, but I just want to enjoy it as much as possible.”

Monica Puig Defeats World No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki at the Miami Open

She may have started the match slow, but Monica Puig didn’t let that stop her from dispatching one of the tournament’s top seeds at the WTA Miami Open

The 24-year-old Puerto Rican tennis player shrugged off an opening set bagel to rally past World No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki 0-6 6-4 6-4 in the second round on Friday.

Monica Puig

It was Wozniacki’s fastest exit at the Miami Open. She appeared to be headed to an easy victory after winning the first set in less than 30 minutes before it all went south.

Puig broke Wozniacki’s serve in the second set to take a 4-2 lead and closed it out to even the match, and Puig, ranked No. 82 in the world, then earned an early break in the decisive set to go ahead 2-0 and held on for the victory.

Puig, who won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, clinched the win with a blistering forehand winner on the second match point.

She now faces Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the third round.

Nadal Defeats Fabio Fognini to Reach Men’s Final at the Miami Open

Rafael Nadal is one step closer to a historic title…

The 30-year-old Spanish tennis star, a four-time runner-up at the Miami Open, beat unseeded Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-5 in the semifinals at Key Biscayne to earn his spot in the finals.

Rafael Nadal,

Nadal, who lost in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014, is playing in the tournament for the 13th time, making it his longest title drought at any event.

“For me the most important thing is to be in the final,” Nadal told the crowd. “That’s great news for me.”

Nadal’s opponent Sunday will be Roger Federer, who defeated Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (9), 6-7 (9), 7-6 (5) in the other semifinal. The showdown comes 13 years after their first career encounter, also at Key Biscayne.

“My biggest rival,” Federer said. “It feels like old times.”

Said Nadal: “I’m just excited to play against Roger always. He’s a big challenge for me, and I think for everybody.”

Seeded fifth, Nadal eliminated Fognini without facing a break point, and lost only nine of 46 points on his serve.

Fognini, the first unseeded men’s semifinalist since 2007, looked listless at the start in 86-degree sunshine. He finished with 38 unforced errors, compared with 12 for Nadal.

The crowd chanted Fognini’s first name in an attempt to get the Italian going, and flying footwear did the job. Fognini hit a drop shot to cause the sneaker malfunction, laughed at length while Nadal retied his shoe and played better after that.

The second set was up for grabs until Fognini double-faulted to fall behind 6-5. Nadal then served out the match at love.

Nadal improved to 19-4 this year and leads the men’s tour in wins.

Nadal Two Wins Away from Ending Drought at Miami Open

Rafael Nadal is two wins away from a career first…

The 30-year-old Spanish tennis star, a four-time runner-up at the Miami Open, defeated American Jack Sock to advance to the men’s semifinals on Wednesday.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Sock have the two most fearful forehands in the game, but at Key Biscayne, it was the Spaniard who showed Sock that other parts of the game matter, as well.

Nadal’s opponent Friday will be Fabio Fognini, who became the first unseeded player in 10 years to reach the men’s semis at Key Biscayne when he beat 2016 runner-up Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2.

Nadal is playing Key Biscayne for the 13th time, making it his longest title drought at any tournament. He committed only 12 unforced errors against the No. 13-seeded Sock, rallied from a break down in the second set and improved his lifetime record against Americans to 60-9.

Fognini matched his best showing in an ATP Masters 1000 event. By beating the No. 2-seeded Nishikori, Fognini improved to 9-44 against top-10 players, and he became the first Italian man to reach a semifinal at Key Biscayne.

“He’s playing well,” Nadal said. “It will be a good test for me. I’m happ to be in the semifinals. I’ll have to play my best and play aggressive like I did today.”

Nadal Celebrates 1,000th ATP Tour Level Match with a Win at the Miami Open

Rafael Nadal has joined an elite team of tennis stars…

The 30-year-old Spanish tennis star celebrated his 1,000th tour level match by beating German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber in a topsy-turvy, come-from-behind victory at the Miami Open.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal is safely through to the fourth round, despite failing to win a game in a stunning first set. Luckily, he recovered to prevail 0-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Kohlschreiber was unstoppable in the early stages and romped through the opening set in just 21 minutes.

It was the first time Nadal had failed to win a game in the first set of an ATP Tour encounter since 2008.

But the fifth seed was undaunted and fought back in determined fashion to claim the 822nd win of his illustrious career and a last-16 tmatch against France’s Nicolas Mahut, who beat Guido Pella 6-4 6-3.

Nadal joins an 11-strong group headed by Jimmy Connors (1,535) to have played at least 1,000 matches on tour.

“One thousand matches is a lot of matches,” said Nadal afterwards. “Obviously that’s good news, because that says I am having a long career.

“During a lot of years, I heard that I’m going to have a short career, so it’s something important for me.

“I remember the first match very well because it was at home in Mallorca. It was my first victory on the ATP and was a great feeling.”