Preview: Alcaraz, Ruud & Fritz Continue Miami Title Quests

Preview: Alcaraz, Ruud & Fritz Continue Miami Title Quests
By: ATP World Tour Posted On: March 25, 2023 View: 70

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The third-round action begins on Sunday at the Miami Open presented by Itau, where Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz continue their title quests at the second ATP Masters 1000 of the year.

Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner are also in action on a day when seeded stars clash for the first time at this year’s event. ATPTour.com looks at some of the key third-round matchups on show in south Florida.

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[1] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. Dusan Lajovic (SRB)

Carlos Alcaraz got his Miami title defence up and running with a comfortable straight-sets victory against Facundo Bagnis, dropping just two games to improve to 15-1 on the season. Playing with fearless aggression and fresh off his title run in Indian Wells, the 19-year-old Spaniard will look to extend his winning run to eight matches when he meets Dusan Lajovic.

“I try not to think about [being] the defending champion,” said Alcaraz when asked if he feels the pressure of defending his title. “I'm trying not to think about [that] I won last year. I always say the same when I come into a tournament: for me it is a new tournament. It's day by day, round by round. I try to play my best every day, try to enjoy every match.”

The top seed, who will remain as No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings if he lifts his fourth ATP Masters 1000 trophy at Hard Rock Stadium, leads Lajovic 3-0 in their ATP Head2Head series. The Serbian enters the match in form, however, having defeated former World No. 1 Andy Murray and American Maxime Cressy in straight sets this week.

Alcaraz’s variety could be key in breaking down Lajovic’s baseline resistance. The Spaniard will look to deploy his drop shot, which was so effective in his victory against Daniil Medvedev in the Indian Wells championship match, to complement his baseline firepower against the Serbian.

[9] Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. [24] Denis Shapovalov (CAN)

Fritz’s Indian Wells title defence was ended by Jannik Sinner at the quarter-final stage, but the American has quickly put that behind him. He produced a dominant performance against Emilo Nava on Friday to reach the third round in Miami for the third consecutive year, improving to 18-4 on the season.

After dropping from No. 5 to No. 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings following Indian Wells, the 25-year-old is on a mission to climb again this week. Depending on results, a title run could lift him back to No. 6. For now, the focus will be on 24th seed Denis Shapovalov, who will prove a tough test.

The Canadian leads Fritz 5-3 in their ATP Head2Head series, but the American won their most recent clash in Acapulco in February. Fans should be treated to an explosive battle on court in Miami, with the pair possessing thunderous serves and destructive forehands. Shapovalov is looking to kick start his season in Miami, with his best result before this week a run to the quarter-finals in Adelaide.

[3] Casper Ruud (NOR) vs. [26] Botic van de Zandschulp (NED)

Having reached the final in Miami last year, Ruud will be hoping the hard-court ATP Masters 1000 event can provide the setting for an upturn in form. The Norwegian arrived in south Florida off the back of a disappointing third-round exit in Indian Wells, but breezed past Ilya Ivashka in his opening match in Miami to improve to 5-5 on the year.

“I want to believe one match will turn it around but there are still a lot of matches to be played with a lot of good players left in the tournament,” Ruud said. “It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve played a match after taking an early loss in Indian Wells. I worked hard and came into Miami with great memories from last year.”

The World No. 4 will face a sterner test in the form of Botic van de Zandschulp on Sunday. The 26th seed hit through Ruud to earn victory in two of their three previous meetings and looks to have adjusted to the conditions in Miami. The Dutchman, who is making his second appearance at the tournament, overcame Alexei Popyrin 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 to earn his maiden win at the ATP Masters 1000 event.

Ruud produced a clean performance against Ivashka, hitting 21 winners to 13 unforced errors, and he will need to find a similar level if he is to win two matches at the same event for the first time this season.

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Also In Action…

In one of the popcorn third-round matches, Sinner and Grigor Dimitrov will face off for the second time. Sinner reached the semi-finals in Indian Wells last week and cruised past Laslo Djere in his opening match in Miami. The 10th-seeded Italian holds fond memories of Hard Rock Stadium, having reached the final there in 2021. Dimitrov, who won the pair's only previous meeting in Rome in 2020, is aiming to reach the fourth round in Miami for just the third time in 12 appearances.

Chasing his first title of the season and maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown, sixth seed Andrey Rublev continues his quest against last year’s quarter-finalist Miomir Kecmanovic. Seventh seed Holger Rune takes on 31st seed Diego Schwartzman, and the in-form Tommy Paul plays Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

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