Miami: Ruthless Rybakina and Alcaraz dazzle

 - Alex Sharp

The silverware is in sight at the Miami Open with a prestigious 'Sunshine Double' up for grabs.

Elena Rybakina / Demi-finale Indian Wells©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT

The Miami Open continues turn up the heat on court.

Not one, but two Sunshine Doubles are at stake this weekend. As the 'Latin Slam' reaches the business end, here are the main talking points from south Florida.

Rybakina keeps collecting

Running on empty due to exertions en route to the Indian Wells title, saving match point in the third round against Paula Badosa, it's remarkable Elena Rybakina is in the Miami final.

The world No.7 just finds a way.

On Thursday the Kazakh tallied up her 13th consecutive victory 7-6(3), 6-4 against Jessica Pegula to defy a break deficit twice in the opener, before reeling in the American from 0-3 in the second set.

In doing so, the Wimbledon champion is one win from becoming just the fifth woman to triumph at Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back.

The aces are flowing (56 across five matches), the confidence is coursing, even if energy levels are low.

"It's really difficult, because of different conditions in these two weeks, it's much more difficult for me here than even in Indian Wells," stated the 23-year-old.

"It's just the finals still close but the same time far. The Sunshine Double I try my best."

Rybakina will take on Petra Kvitova (1-1 record) or Sorana Cirstea (2-0) in Saturday's final.

"I think that both of them are really tough opponents. Both are hitting hard, aggressive, and have very good shots. Hopefully I can make last push and it's gonna go my way."

Kvitova vs Cirstea coming up!

15 years since her maiden Miami Open campaign, a resurgent Kvitova booked her first semi-final ticket following a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 passage past Ekaterina Alexandrova.

"Means a lot, for sure. It's a big tournament. So it's nice, especially when I played the quarterfinals in Indian Wells. I'm happy that the momentum is there," said the Czech, before her take on the Cirstea clash.

"We practiced here before the tournament started. So it's kind of nice that somebody over 30 as well playing so nice, it's fun."

It's 10 years since world No.74 Cirstea last booked a W1000 semi-final in Toronto, where the Romanian defeated Li Na, prior to a final loss to Serena Williams.

The 32-year-old is playing with pure freedom and has backed up her Indian Wells quarter-final quest to topple world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka and world No.4 Caroline Garcia in south Florida this fortnight.

Like many players, Cirstea has battled injuries and a multitude of factors, but the belief has always been present.

“I have always been a good, dangerous player. I have always had a big game, but sometimes I lacked a bit of consistency," suggested the Romanian.

"If let’s say on paper it looks like it’s 10 years, but in these 10 years I feel like I have had great results as well and periods where I was playing very, very well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep that level the whole year.

“It’s always a puzzle, and now all the pieces are starting to come together.”

All-star Alcaraz lighting it up

Just like Rybakina, Carlos Alcaraz is on the cusp of history on the Sunshine Swing.

The world No.1 has replicated his Indian Well title-winning form at the Hard Rock Stadium. On Thursday night his hotshots pinged around social media, the half volley a particular delight, as the Spaniard dismantled American No.1 Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-2 for a semi-final spot.

"The level of today was really high, but Sinner is a great opponent right now, so I have to play at this level or even better to get through the semi-final," said Alcaraz. "I am focused on improve every day."

That's a daunting prospect for the last four rivals in Miami.

Alcaraz must retain his Miami crown to stay No.1 and 10th seed Jannik Sinner presents a tantalising prospect.

Their five-hour epic at the 2022 US Open was one of the matches of the year, then at Indian Wells earlier this month Alcaraz snatched away their semi-final 7-6(4), 6-3, nudging the 19-year-old 3-2 up in their flourishing rivalry.

"I've played against him in the final rounds of tournaments. That means he is playing a great level," suggested Alcaraz. "Of course, I am sure that we are going to play for big things in the future.

"We have a good relationship outside the court. You know, we wave each other, we talk, we practice a few times together. We share a lot of great moments outside of the court."

Jannik Sinner & Carlos Alcaraz / Demi-finale Indian Wells 2023©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT

Sinner has also been sensational in Miami, dismissing the calibre of opponents such as Grigor Dimitrov, Andrey Rublev and Emil Ruusuvuori without dropping a set, launching into sizzling shots with his slalom skier movement.

"I look forward for this kind of matches. I feel like he makes me a better player," mused world No.11 Sinner.

"He only lost one match this year, and he was also injured there. I just stay focused about myself. I have my own path. I know that I can still improve many things, and that's a positive I can see because I still can improve. Let's see."

Medvedev hits top gear

With a fifth successive final in reach, Daniil Medvedev perhaps presents the strongest case to deny Alcaraz.

Prior to the Sunshine Swing the No.4 seed lifted three titles in as many weeks. Over to Miami, the 2021 US Open champion has now won 22 of his past 23 matches.

On Thursday, a strong 6-3, 7-5 scoreline ended Christopher Eubanks dream run to book Medvedev a last four duel with his compatriot Karen Khachanov.

"I was continuing to work and managed to find a lot of confidence this year by winning these matches in Rotterdam, Doha, Dubai," reflected the former world No.1, who lost the Indian Wells trophy showdown to Alcaraz earlier this month.

"Managed to keep it going, which I was able to do sometimes in my career, and sometimes I know also you can have a down moment at one point, so you try to do the high moment as long as possible. I managed to continue it here."

Medvedev toppled world No.16 Khachanov in straight sets at Adelaide 1 in January to lead their record at 3-1. Friendship goes out the window on Friday for their fifth encounter.

"Maybe I have to just force yourself a little bit to stay focused, but at the same time, it's like any other match," declared Medvedev. "Honestly I don't care if I play a friend or the guy I don't like on the other side of the net. Just want to win. That's what competition is."