The first six days of the 2016 Miami Open are over and only one Canadian remains in the running – Milos Raonic following a 7-6(3), 6-4 victory over Jack Sock in the third round on Monday night.
Raonic stepped it up after a rather sketchy effort in a 7-6(4), 6-4 win over Denis Kudla in the second round and will now face the unlikely Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina later Tuesday (not before 5 p.m. EDT) in the round-of-16.
He didn’t drop his serve against Sock, saving all five break points he faced, but not without some good fortune. Sock missed glorious opportunities with remarkable misses on three of the four break points he held with Raonic serving at 4-3 in the final set.
It was noticeable how cool Raonic was through that rocky period and ATP Media commentator Arvind Parmar described his demeanour as “level-headed, he showed no frustration.”
The concerns about his fitness, after it appeared there might be a recurrence of his right adductor issue during the Indian Wells final against Novak Djokovic nine days earlier, seem a non-issue at the moment.
Logically, Raonic (above with co-coach Carlos Moya in Miami) should be able to get past the No. 94-ranked Dzumhur, who’s 23 and broke into the Top 100 in February of 2015. Just 5-foot-9 and 154 pounds, he’s 0-5 in his career in completed matches against Top 10 players – although Raonic is not currently technically a Top 10 player with a ranking of No. 12. Anyone who saw how ill Rafael Nadal looked during his 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 RET loss to Dzumhur on Saturday will not be inclined to call that an entirely legitimate victory.
Ahead for Raonic, if he beats Dzumhur, could be a couple of fascinating match-ups – possibly Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals and any one of Kei Nishikori, Roberto Bautista-Agut, Gael Monfils or Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals.
The final could be a repeat of Indian Wells if Raonic and world No. 1 Djokovic (above tumbling during his 6-4, 6-1 win over Joao Sousa on Sunday) both make it that far.
Sousa ousted Vasek Pospisil in a brutal 6-7(1), 7-6(5), 6-2 second-round match on Friday. Pospisil had himself in perfect position as he served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but lost the game on four points that included a poor forehand unforced error and a double fault on game point.
After pulling out a patchy 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over Diego Schwartzman in the opening round, largely thanks to some stellar tennis in the third-set tiebreak, he seemed to hit a wall after the second set against the feisty Sousa.
Pospisil and Jack Sock, seeded eighth, were upset in the opening round of doubles by John Isner and his unheralded compatriot Nick Monroe.
Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek, unseeded, also went out right out of the gate, beaten 6-4, 7-5 by Gilles Simon and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. Nestor is always vulnerable in hot, humid weather and that has, unfortunately, been the weather pattern in Miami the past few days.
The Miami Open was also a brief experience for Gabriela Dabrowski as she was eliminated in the first round by her longtime former partner Alicja Rosolska. The Pole and Laura Sigemund of Germany prevailed 6-2, 7-5 over Dabrowski and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine.
Of all the Canadian disappointments last week at the Miami Open, Genie Bouchard heads the list. After playing noticeably much more consistent and competitive tennis so far in 2016, she had her worst match of the year – exception made of the Hobart final against Alizé Cornet in January when she said she was distracted by “personal family issues at home.” Bouchard was really not in the match as she lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to Lucie Hradecka. After falling behind 5-1 and dropping the first set to the No. 85-ranked Czech veteran, she called for her coach Thomas Hogstedt.
When he arrived he said, “first of all Genie, you’re going to win this match.” She responded with a frosty, “okay, that doesn’t do anything.” Their conversation subsequently improved but it indicated she was not in a positive frame of mind. The bottom line statistical evidence of that was just 11 winners to go with 28 unforced errors over three sets.
Bouchard’s next event is the Volvo Car Open (formerly the Family Circle Cup) in Charleston, S.C. next week. She reached the semifinals there two years ago before losing a very close and winnable 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 match to eventual champion Andrea Petkovic.
With a current ranking of No. 45, she will begin a push to improve to about No. 32 by the 16th of May, the WTA rankings that will be used to determine the seeds for Roland Garros.
Dennis Seidenberg has been a stay-at-home defenseman during a 14-year National Hockey League career so it’s no surprise that as a tennis player he’s very much a baseline kind of guy.
“Just the competiveness being on your own, battling another guy,” the 34-year-old Boston Bruin said about why he liked playing tennis in his youth. “I always loved playing on clay courts, loved the rallies and the way you could fight for every ball.”
A member of the Bruins since 2010, and only the second German player after Uwe Krupp to get his name on the Stanley Cup when Boston won it in 2011, Seidenberg’s passions were hockey and tennis from the age of four or five years old.
“I actually chose tennis first, when I was 17,” he said. “I had more fun playing tennis. After a couple of months I got invited to an under-18 national (hockey) team tournament and I decided to pick it up again and see how it goes. And I ended up deciding to go with hockey after that. But at first it was tennis.”
When he was 16, he ranked No. 16 among German juniors and recalled about those days, “in my age group I played against Denis Gremelmayr, he was 50 (actually No. 59) in the world at some point, Michael Berrer – all German guys obviously. And Berrer is still playing. Those two are guys I played against a couple of times.”
Who would be the best win of his career? “If you look at the world rankings, it was Gremelmayr,” he replied. “But then we were 16 or 17 years old and it wasn’t much to go off.”
College tennis in the U.S. was a possibility at one time – but then so was college hockey.
“It was an option at some point but I never really had the courage to come over and play tennis in college – and it was more of a question about hockey,” he said. “They both came up but I never decided to do so.”
Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, Seidenberg’s tennis idols were fairly predictable. “Boris (Becker) and (Michael) Stich – definitely, everybody was in front of the TV when those guys were playing, and Steffi Graf. Everybody was very enthusiastic about them and then tennis was very big.”
Seidenberg is obviously still keen on the game and he was aware that new German prodigy – 18-year-old Alexander Zverev – had lost the previous day in two tiebreaks (to American Steve Johnson) at the Miami Open when Tebbutt Tuesday spoke with him on Saturday.
Do his hockey-playing teammates appreciate that tennis is a difficult sport?
“There are quite a few guys that play a little bit of tennis,” he said, “and they know how tough it is and how hard it is. I think even the other guys do when they watch matches and see how fast those guys are and how well-trained they are.”
Seidenberg stills plays the game when he can. “In the summers when I find people to play with,” he said. “It’s tough to find guys to hit balls with. When I do I definitely play and it’s a lot of fun.”
To a follow-up question about whether it’s hard to find competition good enough to play with, he smiles and replies, “most of the time, yes. In Boston I have a few people actually but after the season I don’t stay around too long so I only have a small window when I can play.”
He spends the summers at the New Jersey shore with his American wife and three children.
Golf is the prime summer recreation for many hockey players, but there are some good tennis players as Seidenberg noted. “I heard Patrick Elias (of the New Jersey Devils) is pretty good,” he said, “and other than that – (Bruin teammates) David Krejci is pretty good and Tuuka Rask is okay. (But) nobody can keep up with me so far.”
When it was mentioned to him that Dominic Moore of the New York Rangers was a good player, Seidenberg’s competitive side emerged. “I didn’t know he was a good tennis player,” he said. “I knew he was a good ping pong player. But (he laughs) I definitely think I’d beat him.”
Describing his tennis game-style, Seidenberg said, “I was a clay court guy who loves to rally and hit the ball back and forth and fight for every point. I would say like Thomas Muster. He was a little while back but I always liked his game when he played.”
Putting all things in sporting perspective, Seidenberg has no regrets about the game that he ultimately chose. “I’m pretty happy with the decision I made,” he said just a few hours before going out and playing the 757th game of his NHL career last Saturday night in Toronto.
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) March 28, 2016
Viktor Troicki made this impressive leap over the net in his Miami Open match against David Goffin on Sunday – but to no avail as the Belgian beat him 6-1, 6-1.
Whatever you think of American politics, there’s no doubt that Donald Trump, who claims “I’m a good athlete,” could not display the kind of form that 54-year-old Barack Obama did on Monday while playing tennis with children during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll celebration. BTW – that’s former world No. 6 (1996) Chanda Rubin in the background.
Feature photo: Mauricio Paiz