Beating Andrey Rublev has been one of the toughest challenges in tennis since the start of 2020. Tennys Sandgren, his opponent in the second round of the Miami Open presented by Itau, has proven himself a big-match player in the past. But can the two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist find good enough tennis on Saturday to send the roaring Rublev train off its tracks?
“I have to play my best if I want a shot to compete with him out there,” Sandgren said. “The last match we played wasn’t particularly competitive on my end. I watched him hit a lot of the winners. I felt like I was watching a lot of the match and wasn’t playing it.“
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Rublev defeated Sandgren 6-3, 6-3 in Hamburg last year in their first ATP Head2Head meeting. Although that was a clay-court match, the Russian was able to play his aggressive game, triumphing without facing a break point.
“I’m going to have to try to dictate some points and serve well and maybe hope he’s not totally on,” Sandgren said. “But he’s a great player, obviously playing fantastic tennis, good guy. Just hoping to have a good match out there.”
Sandgren has made life difficult for the sport’s stars in the past. At last year’s Australian Open, he held seven match points against Roger Federer in the quarter-finals before ultimately falling in five sets. The American, who enjoys watching defensive players like Andy Murray and Gael Monfils, knows he won’t be able to sit back against the ball-blasting Rublev.
“I’m not a good enough defender to defend against him, so I might have to be more aggressive, honestly. It’s not good enough out there to play too defensive against him,” Sandgren admitted. “I think any time I play somebody who is one of those guys who is one of the best players in the world right now, when I’ve gone out and played like that, I have to play more aggressive.”
Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will begin his Miami run against lucky loser Damir Dzumhur, who ousted former World No. 5 Kevin Anderson in the first round.
On paper, you’d expect 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas to overwhelm the World No. 126 with his aggressive all-court game. But Dzumhur leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-1, with their most recent clash coming in Rotterdam in 2019.
“He’s getting the ball very early… he’s very aggressive and he doesn’t give you a lot of time ,” Dzumhur said. “I can take all the best and all the positives from those matches to try to keep doing that way. Of course it’s going to be another tough match.”
Other players who are in action Saturday are fifth seed Diego Schwartzman and sixth seed Denis Shapovalov, who will play Yasutaka Uchiyama and Ilya Ivashka, respectively.
But perhaps the match of the day will be between 10th seed Fabio Fognini and #NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda. Fognini is one of the cleanest ball-strikers on the ATP Tour, but he will face an inspired opponent in Korda, who never shies away from a big-hitting clash.
The 20-year-old looked sharp in dispatching Radu Albot 6-3, 6-0 in the first round. Korda broke through at Roland Garros last year by reaching the fourth round, but he quickly climbed into the Top 100 at the start of this season thanks to his run to the Delray Beach final and his subsequent ATP Challenger Tour title in Quimper, France.
Another #NextGenATP player, Lorenzo Musetti, will try to continue his torrid stretch against 23rd seed Benoit Paire, who scouted the Italian’s win against Michael Mmoh on Thursday evening. Both players are crafty, but Musetti brings to the court the edge in current form following his run to the Acapulco semi-finals.