Alcaraz Miami magic joins Osaka and Swiatek show

The level of tennis at the Miami Open has simply been off the charts, with several players rising to the occasion on the ‘Sunshine Swing’

Carlos Alcaraz / Indian Wells 2022©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Human highlights reels have turned up at the Miami Open this week.

The matches have been electrifying, shot-making defying belief. This isn’t hyperbole, the stars on show have been glistening on the ‘Sunshine Swing.’

Carlos continues to exceed expectations

As you’ve probably witnessed over the past couple of seasons, Carlos Alcaraz is a unique talent. The Spaniard has it all, but few called him to succeed so early, so consistently.

The teenage sensation was at it again on Thursday night, booking his second successive Masters 1000 semi-final in an enthralling 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(5) triumph over Miomir Kecmanovic.

The crowd didn’t know how to react, but dedicated and casual tennis fans have unanimously taken note now – this kid is a generational player. One for the ages.

"I think that I'm playing in Spain," quipped Alcaraz, the stadium wide excitement was palpable. "It's unbelievable. The energy that they push to me, it was crazy. I think without them it would not be possible to get into the semi-finals today."

So many players are hyped, rarely they deliver on this scale.

Alcaraz was two points from defeat at 4-5 in the decider and 3-5 down in the ending tie-break. Bold, brave striking, delicious dropshots, astonishing retrieval, lassoed forehands, it all culminated in a spectacular performance.

His ability to step in an unleash thunderous shots in the most tense, pivotal moments must be terrifying for opponents.

"The drop shot is good for me. I have confidence with that shot,” said Alcaraz, musing over his soft touches and on the run wizardry. “The rest of the match I'm trying to hit the ball hard to push the opponent off the baseline. In the tough moments, you have to hit the best shots that you have."

The 18-year-old, inching towards the Top 10, admitted he felt goosebumps after that exquisite showing. The exciting aspect for all of us is that Alcaraz still has plenty of room for improvement. What a prospect.

Juan Carlos Ferrero’s charge is already 16-2 in 2022, only Matteo Berrettini and Rafael Nadal have halted his sublime progress.

In the last four Hubert Hurkacz awaits. The defending champion ended Daniil Medvedev’s world No.1 bid with an absorbing 7-6(7), 6-3 win. It was a match packed with intensity and front foot, aggressive tennis, the Pole capitalising upon a beleaguered Medvedev.

The Russian producing his on idiosyncratic assessment of his physical issues. “Every muscle just went ‘cramp, cramp, cramp, cramp.' I was like a fish on the sofa."

On the other side of the draw, world No.103 Francisco Cerundolo is having the week of his career thus far, flourishing on Masters 1000 debut. The 23-year-old will shoot for the final against Casper Ruud.

Swiatek vs Osaka blockbuster

Ash Barty may have waved goodbye to the WTA Tour, but her world No.1 predecessor and successor have lined-up a box office battle in the Miami Open final.

On one side of the net we’ll have Iga Swiatek, emphasising her world No.1 credentials by chalking up a 16th straight win (taking 18 consecutive sets), by downing Jessica Pegula 6-2, 7-5 under the lights.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is back in the groove. That’s an understatement, the Japanese icon has rattled off 161 winners to just 63 unforced errors to reach the silverware showdown.

For Swiatek the stats keep printing impressive reading. Claiming her last 16 matches is the longest winning streak on the women’s Tour since Osaka’s 23 strong run in 2020-21.

Swiatek, moving to top of the rankings on Monday, was picking out shots from unimaginable positions against Pegula, stealing points she had no right to win.

It was the timing and confidence of a player booking back-to-back finals of both Indian Wells and Miami, becoming only the ninth WTA star ever to do so.

“I'm really proud, honestly. It's kind of hard to catch up with everything, but I feel like as a team, we are doing such a good job to get me ready,” stated the 20-year-old, champion in the Californian desert last month.

“I try to use this streak as something positive and something that's going to give me a kick, but yeah, it's pretty weird situation that I'm in.”

Osaka, having been very open about her mental struggles, hasn’t been able to compete too much in recent months. The 24-year-old currently stands at world No.77, however, is clicking through the gears to portray some pulsating tennis in Miami.

Osaka is back, big time.

The serving is clockwork, cracking 18 aces to help defeat Belinda Bencic for the first time in four meetings. The 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback sprinkled in some devastating shots on the stretch and showcased Osaka’s exceptional battling qualities.

“I think like in the second set I just told myself, ‘Listen, if she beats you, like someone is going to have to carry you off the court in a stretcher, because you're going to fight for everything.’”

Osaka was in tears of happiness sat on her bench after match point, having posted her first final since the 2021 Australian Open, before recalling her opening duel versus Swiatek.

“I remember playing Iga in Toronto (2019) when she was first coming up, and my immediate thought was, ‘Wow, this girl is really athletic. She's sliding all around the place,’” added Osaka, who eked out an edge-of-seat 7-6(4), 6-4 victory then.

“I think it's really amazing to see how far she's come. She's just so motivated… She's going to be No. 1 soon or already. It's really cool. I think the WTA is definitely doing its thing.”

The WTA is certainly doing its thing. Settle in for the Osaka and Swiatek show on Saturday.