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A dramatic weekend at the Miami Open: “Top-five atmosphere”

They are already setting up at the Miami Open venue for the F1 Grand Prix event that will be held there in May.

This past Saturday, the best tennis players in the world were showcasing their own version of “Drive to Survive.”

The month of March is all about surviving and advancing (queue March Madness), which is exactly what second-round and third-round participants in Miami were hoping to do on Saturday. Some did; others crashed out. But for pretty much everyone it was a wild ride. Eight of the 15 men’s singles second-round contests went three sets with 14 tiebreakers played in total. Three matches featured tiebreakers in every set; two in Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Thiago Monteiro and a full three in Alex de Minaur vs. Quentin Halys and Hubert Hurkacz vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis. Six of the eight women’s third-rounders required a third and final set. Two kept on going for more than three hours.

Two ATP matches also surpassed the three-hour mark. A third one would have if Monteiro had converted a set point at 7-6 in the second-set tiebreaker of his 7-6(5), 7-6(8) setback against Auger-Aliassime. They played for two hours and 41 minutes to complete just two sets. Auger-Aliassime said the match, played in the Grandstand, had a “top-five atmosphere” in his career.

Nothing was crazier or lasted longer than Hurkacz vs. Kokkinakis.

In what is the longest best-of-three match in the men’s game so far in 2023, Hurkacz survived Kokkinakis 6-7(10), 7-6(7), 7-6(6) after three hours and 31 minutes. It was a wild one the entire way. Hurkacz had six set points in the opening tiebreaker, including three in a row from 6-3 up. Nonetheless, he lost it. Kokkinakis had three match points in the second tiebreaker, including two in succession from 6-4 ahead–one of which saw him miss a volley right on top of the bet. The Australian somehow lost that. In the third and final ‘breaker, Kokkinakis again saw a 6-4 lead evaporate. Hurkacz erased one match point with a backhand return winner off a 126 mph second serve and the 2021 champion finally triumphed when Kokkinakis sent a backhand wide at 6-7.

“I knew I was playing good tennis,” Hurkacz commented. “Thanasi (was), as well. I was just trying to stay in there and compete–play some good shots. Either way, if I won or I lost…obviously I wanted to win so, so much…but either way (I) should have been happy with myself.

“It’s tough to explain for me.”

That last statement sums up the entire day.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.