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Wednesday June 23rd, 2021 1:32PM

Hobbled Daniil Medvedev limps to 3rd-round win at Miami Open

By The Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) — Daniil Medvedev could barely walk, much less run. He could still serve, though.

Hobbled by cramps, the top-ranked Medvedev limped through the final few games Sunday to edge Alexei Popyrin 7-6 (3), 6-7 (7), 6-4 in the third round at the Miami Open.

Medvedev failed to convert three match points in the second set after taking a 5-2 lead. An hour later the Russian was still playing, and on a humid afternoon with temperatures in the mid 80s, he paid a price.

He broke in the final set for a 4-3 lead, but by then he was struggling with his movement. To keep rallies short, Medvedev began hitting high-risk shots, and made enough of them to close out the 2 1/2-hour match.

When Popyrin misfired on a backhand on the final point, Medvedev shuffled to the net with a smile that turned into a wince. He'll have two days to recover before his fourth-round match.

Also advancing was No. 18-seeded John Isner, the only former Miami champion in the men's field. On the women's side, No. 2 Naomi Osaka advanced with a walkover, but No. 4 Sofia Kenin lost to No. 27 Ons Jabeur 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Popyrin, a 21-year-old Australian ranked 86th, second-guessed himself for not making Medvedev move more at one juncture. But he credited his good friend and practice partner for closing out the win.

“I saw he couldn’t walk at all,” Popyrin said, “but he was bombing 120-mph serves. He was definitely struggling out there. Props to him that he was able to serve it out.”

Isner never had a break-point opportunity and won anyway, which is the kind of feat typical of Isner. The big American with the big serve hit 16 aces and edged No. 11-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5).

That made it four consecutive sets Isner has won by tiebreaker against Auger-Aliassime in Miami. The score when they met in the 2019 semifinal was 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4).

In the rematch, neither player had a break point, which meant the outcome was determined by a handful of shots. Isner likes such matches — sometimes.

“I enjoy it when I win,” he said. “It's frustrating when you lose a match that comes down to point here or there, and a lot of times that’s how it is for me. I could very easily be talking now as a loser and be going home.”

Said Auger-Aliassime: “I guess 6 and 6 is a pretty common score against John. It slipped out of my hands. It was a close one."

Osaka advanced to the fourth round at Miami for the first time in her career when qualifier Nina Stojanovic withdrew from their match shortly before the scheduled start because of a right thigh injury.

Osaka, ranked No. 2, has won 22 consecutive matches since her most recent defeat in February 2020, and she earned her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month. But in Miami, where she is making her fifth appearance, she has previously made early exits.

She'll next face No. 16 Elise Mertens, who won a seesaw match against No. 22 Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 0-6, 6-2. No. 29 Jessica Pegula defeated No. 6 Karolina Pliskova for the third time this year, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

In other men's play, No. 7 Roberto Bautista Agut rallied past No. 31 Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Bautista Agut will face Isner next.

“I'm going to have to play well if I'm going to have any chance of beating him,” Isner said. “He's too solid if I don’t.”

Isner, who won the biggest title of his 14-year tour career in Miami in 2018, took the court in the midday heat. While the weather taxed Medvedev, it seems to bring out the best in Isner.

“These conditions are good for me,” Isner said. “I knew at the very worst I was going to be able to make it a close match and make it come down to a few points, and that was the case.”

In the second tiebreaker, the 6-foot-10 American bent down to hit a deft drop volley for a winner to make it 5-all. With Auger-Aliassime serving at 5-6, Isner prevailed in a 13-shot exchange — a rarity in the serve-dominated match — when the Canadian sailed a forehand long.

Only five other rallies lasted 10 shots or more.

“One of the best points I played all match,” Isner said.

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Tennis, AP Sports - Men's Tennis
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