Miami: Stars still shining on Sunshine Swing

 - Alex Sharp

The Florida crowds are being treated to a constant stream of thrilling performances and memorable matches at the 'Latino Slam'.

Carlos Alcaraz & Daniil Medvedev / Finale Indian Wells 2023©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT

The Indian Wells to Miami double is one of the favourite stints of the season for the players and it's easy to see why. 

Sunshine, palm trees, pristine grounds, you name it.

These serene surroundings have evidently boosted the tennis. Let's catch up on the state of play at the Miami Open.

Showstopping Spaniard keeps turning heads

World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz has transferred his human highlight reel tennis from his title run at Indian Wells over to the faster court on Hard Rock Stadium with consummate ease.

The teenage sensation lit it up on Sunday, navigating past Dusan Lajovic 6-0, 7-6(5), defying a late surge from the Serbian with some sparkling shotmaking.

He's playing with such freedom, with a smile pinging from his face. It’s an obvious joy.

"I feel fast on court, I am moving well," said defending champion Alcaraz, now at 16-1 this season.

"I am happy with the variety I am playing. Lots of shots. I am enjoying every single second out there."

How about this for a Last 16 battle, Alcaraz next meets in-form Tommy Paul. The Australian Open semi-finalist overcame Alcaraz in three sets in their only previous match in Montreal last August.

"I know that he's a really talented and really tough player, so I have to play at my best," continued Alcaraz.

"I like to watch a lot of matches from him. He makes everything easy, he is doing everything well. I like to play battles, tough battles."

Medvedev to bounce back?

Alcaraz dismantled Daniil Medvedev's three-title, 19-match winning streak earlier this month at Indian Wells.

What has the rejuvenated 27-year-old got in response?

The 2021 US Open champion set the tone, dropping just three games to oust Roberto Carballes Baena in his Miami opener, before receiving a walkover.

That extra day break could help the world No.5 recharge after such a very successful stint on tour.

Medvedev will vie for a third consecutive Miami quarter-final over the net from France's surprise package Quentin Halys. The world No.79 is thriving in Miami, downing the likes of Alex de Minaur and Mackenzie McDonald for his finest Masters 1000 to date.

Plenty of players will want their say, but Alcaraz and Medvedev appear on course for a Sunshine Swing rematch. Pass the popcorn!

Trio taking charge

World No.1 Iga Swiatek may be absent from Miami with a rib injury, but the key contenders keep producing statement tennis.

In particular Elena Rybakina, Aryna Sabalenka and Jessica Pegula keep raising the bar stateside.

Wimbledon winner Rybakina, seeking a Sunshine Double, booked a last eight ticket 6-4, 6-3 facing Elise Mertens.

The Kazakh's slingshot serve is scorching, the trademark composure isn't showing signs of cracking with 11 successive wins.

"For sure, physically I’m not the freshest, but I’m happy that I’m managing and finding my way," said the career-high world No.7. "To be in the quarter-final is great, and hopefully I’m going to play better tomorrow."

Rybakina will meet No.25 seed Martina Trevisan. The Italian outmanoeuvred 2017 Roland-Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets to earn a maiden WTA 1000 quarter-final spot.

Elena Rybakina & Aryna Sabalenka / Finale Indian Wells 2023©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT

Focus the key for Sabalenka

Australian Open champion Sabalenka has now notched up a 20-2 campaign. The match belief and conviction were on full display with a 6-3, 6-2 scoreline to dismiss Barbora Krejcikova.

"I think in the last two matches I won the first set and every time in the second set I would get crazy on court and talking to myself, lose it a little bit," said Sabalenka, who also gained revenge from Dubai over three sets at Indian Wells.

"Today I tried to stay focused no matter what, keep doing my thing, and focus on myself."

It's all clicking for No.2 seed Sabalenka and that's very much the case for world No.74 Sorana Cirstea.

They'll clash next and the Romanian will provide a stern test for Sabalenka, a quarter-finalist at Indian Wells a fortnight ago. The 32-year-old edged Marketa Vondrousova 7-6(3), 6-4 on Monday.

Third seed Jessica Pegula is welcoming sharp starts at familiar surroundings in Miami.

The American hasn't dropped a set yet, launching to rapid first set leads over Danielle Collins and Magda Linette en route to the last eight.

"I've lived and trained down here for quite a long time. I'm a little more warm-blooded than I used to be. I like the heat," stated the 29-year-old, taking on Anastasia Potapova next.

"It's definitely nice to not be coming from behind every single set I play here, like that was happening in Indian Wells."

Ekaterina Alexandrova and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova complete the quarter-final line-up.

Tsitsipas is back in the running

Just like the WTA side, the ATP draw is simmering in the last 16.

Away from the headlining Alcaraz and Medvedev, there is a potentially pulsating Top 10 battle.

Top American Taylor Fritz relishes playing the Sunshine Swing and he'll have to bring his elite counterpunching to topple Holger Rune. Remember, the Dane defeated five Top 10 players en route to his first Masters 1000 title last November in Paris.

Andrey Rublev and Jannik Sinner will bring blistering shots to court. Neither player has surrendered a set yet and they have previous success here. Rublev a 2021 semi-finalist and Sinner even better as the runner-up two years ago. Full-throttle tennis at its best, who can dictate play?

Stefanos Tsitsipas contines to manage a shoulder issue, but the No.2 seed valiantly found the answers over three sets to edge Cristian Garin.

The Greek can feed off a 6-0 head-to-head against Karen Khachanov on Tuesday, however the world No.16 pushed Tsitsipas to four sets in their most recent meeting in the Australian Open last four.

Since then world No.3 Tsitsipas has struggled for rhythm or full fitness.

"I had an eye-on-the-prize attitude and it was effective with how I played in the last game when he was serving," stated Tsitsipas after his Garin triumph.

"It has been a difficult road to healing in the past few weeks, but I am happy that things are getting better."

Stefanos Tsitsipas & Karen Khachanov / Demi-finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT