Daniil Medvedev begins Miami Open bid with easy victory

Russian strolls to win over Carballes Baena, while Hurkacz survives epic battle with Kokkinakis

Daniil Medvedev during his straight-sets win over Roberto Carballes Baena at the Miami Open on March 25, 2023. AP
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Daniil Medvedev enjoyed a comfortable start to his Miami Open campaign with a 6-1, 6-2 win over clay-court specialist Roberto Carballes Baena.

The fourth seed saw his 19-match winning run come to an end when he was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in the Indian Wells final but barely had to break sweat as he secured victory in just 62 minutes on Saturday.

The Russian was totally dominant as he struck 18 winners to the Spaniard's five, making use of the drop shot, which Alcaraz had put to good effect against him last week, and joked afterwards that he had been trying to emulate the world No 1.

“I thought I needed to use that shot more. I've always liked drop shots but it's not a weapon in my game that I'm going to use 50 times a match,” he said. “You need to have confidence in the shot and today it worked pretty well.

“I'm happy with my first match, solid performance, looking forward for next matches.”

Medvedev had won three consecutive titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai before losing to Alcaraz. He now faces Slovakian world No 56 Alex Molcan, who defeated Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6, 1-6, 6-2.

He becomes the first player to reach 25 wins this season on either the ATP or WTA tours.

While fourth seed Medvedev strolled into the next round, Hubert Hurkacz had to save five match points as he fought back to beat Thanasi Kokkinakis in a three-and-a-half hour epic.

The Aussie had shown his mettle by saving six set points as he won the first-set tie-break and Hurkacz, the 2021 Miami champion, saved three match points in the second-set tie-break and another two in the final-set breaker.

“It’s tough to explain for me. I knew I was playing good tennis, I mean Thanasi was as well,” eighth seed Hurkacz said directly after his win.

“I was just trying to stay in there and compete, play some good shots. Either way, if I won or I lost – obviously I wanted to win so, so much – but either way I should have been happy with myself.”

Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas progressed courtesy of a walkover as France's Richard Gasquet withdrew with an injury.

British duo Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans are both out after losing to France's Gregoire Barrere 6-3, 6-2 and Italian Lorenzo Soneg 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, respectively.

The home fans who stayed late were given a treat by rising star Francis Tiafoe who survived an inspired performance from Japan's Yosuke Watanuki.

The 24-year-old Watanuki, ranked 123rd, used his powerful forehand to great effect, blasting 55 winners and peppering Tiafoe from the baseline.

“He was playing lights out and I was on the back foot a lot,” said 12th seed Tiafoe after his 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 win.

“He played a helluva match tonight, so give respect where respect is due. He was so red hot but I was hoping his level might drop in glimpses and I did a good job of taking advantage when it did,”

Updated: March 26, 2023, 6:06 AM