Alcaraz Starts Title & World No. 1 Defence; Ruud, Fritz Face Opening Tests In Miami

The second round of the 2023 Miami Open presented by Itau begins at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday, where the seeded players in the top half of the draw seek to kick-start their campaigns at the ATP Masters 1000 event.

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz is the defending champion in Miami as he aims to back up his Indian Wells title and complete the coveted ‘Sunshine Double’. The Spaniard plays Facundo Bagnis on Friday, while Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz, Andrey Rublev and Holger Rune are also in second-round action.

ATPTour.com previews a jam-packed Day 3 in southern Florida.

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[1] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. Facundo Bagnis (ARG)

The 19-year-old Alcaraz is playing for a lot more than just the trophy this year in Miami. The Spaniard must defend his crown in Florida to stay ahead of Novak Djokovic and retain the No.1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, while a title run would also make him the youngest man to complete the ‘Sunshine Double’ of winning Indian Wells and Miami in the same year.

Not that those factors are causing Alcaraz to feel any extra nerves. Knowing he needed to win in Indian Wells to return to World No.1, the Spaniard did not drop a set en route to his third Masters 1000 crown. He will aim to go about his business in a similarly cool fashion at Hard Rock Stadium, where he first takes on Bagnis in Friday’s day session.

“I don’t feel the pressure too much. I know the things I have to do,” said Alcaraz at his pre-tournament press conference. “I need to play relaxed and not mind if I lose or if I play well or not… That is why I am playing at a good level. I am enjoying every single second and playing relaxed. That is what I am thinking about on court.”

The World No. 100 Bagnis could not have been presented with a tougher second-round challenge after defeating Felipe Meligeni Alves to clinch his first main-draw win in Miami at the third attempt. The Argentine will be all too aware of the difficulties of breaking down Alcaraz — he claimed just four games against the Spaniard in the pair’s only previous ATP Head2Head meeting in Umag in 2022.

The variety in Alcaraz’s game could be a key for disrupting Bagnis’ resilient baseline game enough to help him secure a similar result this time around. His trademark drop shot in particular is likely to be frequently deployed as he aims to avoid an early upset in Miami.

[3] Casper Ruud (NOR) vs. Ilya Ivashka

Ruud reached his maiden ATP Masters 1000 championship match in Miami a year ago, and the Norwegian will seek another deep run at Hard Rock Stadium to kick-start his 2023 season.

The third seed, who holds a 4-5 record for the year, faces a maiden ATP Head2Head meeting with Ilya Ivashka in his first-round match. The World No. 80 Ivashka pushed eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev to three sets in Indian Wells and will believe he can apply similar pressure to Ruud.

The key for Ivashka to gain a foothold in the match will likely be his ability to nullify his opponent’s powerful forehand, which was a crucial weapon in the Norwegian’s 2022 run to the championship match. Any short balls on offer are likely to be punished by Ruud, who is a nine-time ATP Tour titlist.

Although he has so far struggled to back up his stellar 2022, that ability to hit through opponents with his huge groundstrokes makes Ruud particularly suited to the fast courts in Miami. The World No. 4 will hope that his return to Hard Rock Stadium can be the catalyst for another dream Masters 1000 run.

[9] Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. [WC] Emilio Nava (USA)

A clash of home favourites on Hard Rock Stadium presents the local fans with an intriguing matchup between No. 1 American Fritz and 21-year-old wild card Emilio Nava.

Although Fritz’s Indian Wells title defence was ended in the quarter-finals by Jannik Sinner, the 25-year-old continues to impress in 2023. He is 17-5 for the year, a record which includes helping Team USA to United Cup glory and lifting his fifth ATP Tour title in Delray Beach. Fritz will feel his big serve and aggressive gamestyle will stand him in good stead in Miami as he bids for his second Masters 1000 crown.

Nava has already shown he can go toe-to-toe with a big-serving opponent in Miami, however. The World No. 182 did not face a break point in downing John Isner in his first-round match and he will hope finding that rhythm behind his delivery again can make life difficult for Fritz.

Nava also has recent experience competing on the big stage. He defeated John Millman in five sets at the 2022 US Open for his maiden tour-level win before pushing former World No. 1 Andy Murray to four sets in the second round. Can he raise his game again to spring an upset Friday on Hard Rock Stadium?

Also In Action…

Alcaraz, Ruud and Fritz are joined by Rublev and Rune as Top 10 stars in action on Friday. The 2021 semi-finalist and sixth seed Rublev opens against the World No. 50 J.J. Wolf, while Rune will make his Miami main-draw debut against Marton Fucsovics.

Jannik Sinner’s semi-final run in Indian Wells moved the Italian to 16-4 for the year, and the 10th-seeded 21-year-old looks to improve that record further against Laslo Djere. Sinner has pedigree in south Florida — he reached his only previous Masters 1000 final in Miami in 2021.

Another former finalist, the 13th-seeded Aexander Zverev, plays wild card Taro Daniel in the final match of the night session on Hard Rock Stadium, while the 31st seed Diego Schwartzman takes on the in-form Chinese star Wu Yibing.

Tommy Paul, Maxime Cressy and Brandon Nakashima are the other home favourites looking to channel the energy of the local fans in Miami as they take on Marc-Andrea Huesler, Dusan Lajovic and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, respectively.


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