Although the courts at Indian Wells are considered as the slowest hardcourts and those in Miami as the fastest (alongisde Dubai), only one replacement in the semifinals comparing these two US events of the “Sunshine Double” – Karen Khachanov replaced Frances Tiafoe. The tall Russian  won his biggest title 4.5 years ago (Paris ’18), two years ago became a Silver medallist at the Olympics, but I’d argue he’s been in the form of his life in the past six months, reaching three semifinals of big events (US Open, Aussie Open, Miami). He became the only man to steal a set from Daniil Medvedev , who is also in top form, but one level (at least) above Khachanov. Medvedev was fortunate with the draw in the fortnight, advancing to the semifinals facing opponents akin to Challengers. Christopher Eubans [119, qualifier], a two-meter skinny American, whom Medvedev defeated in the quarterfinal, had never entered the Top 100 before. “I haven’t won’t such a big title in probably a year and a half,” Medvedev said after his final victory over Jannik Sinner, who reached the Miami final for the second time in his career. “At the end I was quite shaky. Not even tight, because I’m not scared to win. But still the hands get a little shaky so the serve is a little bit tougher. I managed to get myself together and close the match.” In the 38-year-old history of the event, had never spectators witnessed as many tie-breaks as this March (48). The first Saturday was really crazy: there were two matches with the scoreline 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, and what’s more intriguing, they were won after saving match points in two different sets, by Quentin Halys & Hubert Hurkacz, players of divergent levels, nonetheless both not known for winning dramatic matches with high frequency. Especially Hurkacz’s (10/12, 9/7, 8/6) over Thanasi Kokkinakis was really impressive, it lasted 3 hours 30 minutes (the longest 2-1 match this year). The Pole trailed 4:6 in two consecutive tie-breaks having wasted six set points in the first set! He arguably has the best serve among players at the top of the game, and recently plays more tie-breaks than anyone else. The defending champion, Carlos Alcaraz lost in the semifinal 7-6, 4-6, 2-6 to Sinner squandering two mini-match points (two weeks earlier in the IW semifinal, Alcaraz beat Sinner 7-6, 6-3, so he was five points away to repeat the scoreline). Similarly to the Rio final a few weeks ago, Alcaraz suffered cramps in the 3rd set. This should be noted, but not be worrisome in terms of his further development, at least for the time being. He was sidelined for a few months, and it seems this young body couldn’t cope with the amazingly energetic tennis he tries to propose week-by-week. I assume he won’t have similar problems for the rest of the season. I expect him to claim two out of the four biggest titles on clay this year.
The first round of the 82nd edition of the Davis Cup occurred five days after the Key Biscayne final. Five ties were played indoors (four on carpet, clay in Vienna). Czechia for the first time under a new name (Czech Republic then) taking legacy of Czechoslovakia. At the time there were three Czechs in the Top 100 while the highest ranked Slovak (Karol Kučera) was no. 235. Slovaks will make their Davis Cup debut in 1994. The most dramatic tie, featuring a miraculous outcome, took place in Barcelona where Spain was shocked by the Netherlands (its first advancement to the quarterfinals). Mark Koevermans  displayed a heroic effort in the deciding rubber; he trailed 0-2 against one of the best clay-courters, soon-to-be the double French Open champion Sergi Bruguera , yet somehow he was able to play a transcendental tennis, and won 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 after thrilling 4 hours 32 minutes under the floodlights, trailing 2:4 in the decider. Sometimes it’s a matter of synergy, the Dutchman knew how to play against Bruguera, he defeated him for the 6th time in their eighth meetings (all on clay, including on the same court a year before at the Olympics). It’s the last main-level singles win in Koevermans’ career, later that year he retired due to physical problems at the age of 25 (continued in 1994 only in doubles). “I was so tired that I couldn’t even pick myself up anymore”, said a very happy Koevermans. “I had no energy left to encourage me. But I often watched the reactions of the players in the stands and they gave me that extra energy. In the fourth set I felt the whole atmosphere that there was a surprise in the air hung. At a certain point you get into a trance and you are lived.” Before Koevermans enjoyed the most amazing emotions of his career becoming a national hero, Paul Haarhuis had done a lot, defeating in five sets Bruguera and Carlos Costa, also erasing a two-sets-to-love deficit against the latter, withstanding a double match point in the fourth set tie-break. The loss of the United States (defending champion) to Australia could be considered as a sensation, but the Americans travelled over the Pacific Ocean without any of their four best players. What’s more bizarre, the team captain Tom Gorman decided to appoint David Wheaton and Brad Gilbert, the players who were conflicted since their famous quarrel at the Grand Slam Cup ’90. “It’s nice, certainly, to win the last match – but they won the war,” said Wheaton, who participated in his first and last Davis Cup tie. Thanks to him, the Americans avoided a first 0-5 Davis Cup loss since 1973 (also against Australia). The 1992 runner-up, Switzerland, suffered a defeat too. The Swiss team competing with their two best players, couldn’t deal with a specific Indian grass. Jakob Hlasek completely disappointed, quickly losing his both singles rubbers.
First round (host first)
Australia – USA 4-1, Italy – Brazil 5-0, Austria – France 1-4, India – Switzerland 3-2
Spain – Netherlands 2-3, Sweden – Cuba 5-0, Russia – Germany 1-4, Denmark – Czechia 1-4
The first European clay-court event (Estoril) of the season was won by Andrei Medvedev. The 19-year-old Ukrainian had a tough match in the second round against Francisco Roig – one of the closest people of Rafael Nadal, who was 7 at the time. Magnus Larsson lost his first deciding tie-break, having won 12 in a row (!) at the main-level. He was a victim of Karel Nováček, who advanced to his fourth final of 1993, in three different conditions (hard, carpet, clay)… The first leg of the Asian tour (four weeks: 2 Japan, 1 China, 1 Korea) brought a sensational defeat of Jim Courier in the semifinal to Amos Mansdorf. “Rankings are important to everybody, but it is more important to win tournaments and major titles,” Courier said about his tightening rivalry with Pete Sampras. “Pete deserves to be number one and I’m just thinking about what I’m going to do in a tournament.” Michael Chang claimed his 11th title, but already in the first round he was struggling against a young German of the Czech origin David Prinosil, trailing *3:4 in the 3rd set… Marcos Ondruska was in a form of his life, so an all-South African meeting of him against Wayne Ferreira could be anticipated by the local fans in the Durban semifinal. Instead of Ondruska, other Afrikaner, 22-year-old Grant Stafford  faced Ferreira, and stunned him, reaching the first of his three ATP finals (each on a different surface) not having played an ATP quarterfinal before.
Miami (Masters 1000, hard outdoors) – week 12/13
(4)🇷🇺Daniil Medvedev d. (10)🇮🇹Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-3
Davis Cup | first round | – week 12
Estoril ($500K, clay outdoors) – week 13
(5)🇺🇦Andrei Medvedev d. (4)🇨🇿Karel Nováček 6-4, 6-2
Osaka ($475K, hard outdoors)
(2)🇺🇸Michael Chang d. (5)🇮🇱Amos Mansdorf 6-4, 6-4
Durban ($275K, hard outdoors)
(5)🇺🇸Aaron Krickstein d. (WC)🇿🇦Grant Stafford 6-2, 7-6(7)
Top 10 after the first quarter of the year:
1993: Courier – Sampras – Edberg – Becker – Korda – Ivanisevic – Agassi – Lendl – Chang – Stich
2023: Djokovic – Alcaraz – Tsitsipas – D.Medvedev – Ruud – Rublev – Auger – Rune – Sinner – Fritz
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