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Alcaraz and Sinner take the first steps towards the showdown in Miami

MIAMI: Top seed Carlos Alcaraz and No. 2 seed Jannik Sinner took the first confident steps toward the mouth-watering Miami Open final tennis fans crave by storming into the third round with stunning victories on Saturday.

Tennis’ newest and hottest rivalry was heated up in the Indian Wells semi-finals last week when Alcaraz put the first blemish on Sinner’s perfect season by stopping the Italian’s 16-game winning streak.

Sinner shrugged his shoulders and said Miami was a fresh start, starting with a brisk 6-3, 6-4 win over fellow Italian Andrea Vavassori.

Alcaraz, who went on to win Indian Wells and arrive in Miami looking to complete the Sunshine Double, was no less efficient in a resounding 6-2-6-1 victory over Roberto Carballes Baena in an all-Spanish game.

The win certainly impressed three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray, who took to X immediately after the match and posted: “Watching Alcaraz play tennis makes me smile.”

“It’s pretty cool that a legend like Andy says something like that, that he really enjoys watching my games,” Alcaraz said. “It’s crazy for me. He has seen a lot of tennis throughout his career, a lot of matches, a lot of players.”

With the two young talents in the spotlight, defending champion Daniil Medvedev has flown under the radar, but that may not last for long after the third seed moved on with a clean 6-4, 6-2 win over Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.

The sun returned to the Miami Open after two days of rain, but it was still a gloomy Saturday for the U.S. hopefuls as three of the top four American men, led by 12th seed Taylor Fritz, were eliminated in the second round.

Fritz was joined at the Hard Rock Stadium exit by No. 13 seed Tommy Paul and No. 21 seed Frances Tiafoe, leaving No. 16 seed Ben Shelton as the top-seeded American.

After only eight games were completed on Friday due to rain, the start of play on Saturday was again delayed by three hours before Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild opened play on the stadium court with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Fritz .

With a perfect 10-0 in opening games since the start of 2023, Fritz appeared taken aback by the 24-year-old, who enjoyed the support of a small but loud flag-waving Brazilian crowd.

While Fritz made 26 unforced errors and created a single break chance, Seyboth Wild converted three of his five break chances.

“I played a really solid match today, I barely missed it,” said Wild, who is no stranger to causing upsets when he beat Daniil Medvedev at the French Open last year. “It was exactly the plan with my coach before the game.”

Paul, who reached the semi-finals in Indian Wells last weekend, appeared to be on his way to the third round when he took the first set 6-4 against fellow American Martin Damm.

Those hopes ended with Damm leading 2-1 in the second period when Paul appeared to twist his left ankle, then limped to his bench and gave up.

Tiafoe may be a crowd favorite wherever he plays in the US, but the support wasn’t enough for him against Christopher O’Connell as the Australian claimed a 7-5, 7-6(5) victory.

Denis Shapovalov was one of the many games suspended due to rain on Friday. On Saturday, Denis Shapovalov returned and pulled off an upset by defeating 10th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4.

The Canadian, who was leading 2-1 when the game was interrupted, constantly put his Greek opponent under pressure, creating 18 break chances and converting three of them, while Tsitsipas was unable to create a single break chance in the entire game.

Former British world number one Murray claimed back-to-back wins for the first time this season, ending his rain match with a 7-6 (7), 6-3 decision over Argentina’s Thomas Martin Etcheverry.

After losing the opening competition of his first four tournaments, including the Australian Open, earlier in the campaign, Murray reached the second round of his next four tournaments before reaching the third round in Florida.

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