Miami Open 2019: Kyle Edmund beats Raonic to set Isner challenge as seeds collide in Florida

Britain's Kyle Edmund will take on John Isner in the round of 16 at the Miami Open

Kyle Edmund
Kyle Edmund (Photo: Marianne Bevis)

The 96 have become 32 at the Miami Open, but while the third round is the first time that the tournament’s 32 seeds can face one another, upsets along the way have ensured that plenty of unseeded faces are still in the mix.

Indeed, seven seeds from each of the halves have already bid farewell, among them some of the draw’s biggest names: No2 seed Alexander Zverev—who felt the fire of imminent retiree David Ferrer; No3 Dominic Thiem—the Indian Wells champion ensuring there would be no ‘sunshine double’ this year; Nos 5 and 9, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic losers in each half; No10 Karen Khachanov still missing his Paris Masters form, while No16 Gael Monfils, one of the form players of the season, out with injury before he had begun.

Even the lowly ranked Stan Wawrinka, climbing with real purpose as he regained fitness and confidence after a long absence following knee surgery, failed to meet his designated Swiss showdown with Roger Federer for the second consecutive tournament.

But for all that, there remained plenty of star appeal as the top half, and its nine remaining seeds, took to court on middle first Sunday.

Top of the pile, and in pursuit of a record seventh Miami title, was world No1 Novak Djokovic, who would, remarkably, play the 83-ranked Federico Delbonis for only the first time. The odds were, it is fair to say, stacked in the Serb’s favour: a 43-6 win-loss in the tournament did not lie.

The next highest remaining seed in the half, the defending champion, No7 John Isner, also faced an unseeded player ranked 86, Albert Ramos-Vinolas. They had shared wins in their previous two matches, but both had been on clay. This was a different prospect, played on hard courts and with a home crowd.

No11 seed Borna Coric enjoyed the same bonus, the unseeded Jeremy Chardy, though the Frenchman had only just missed a seeding, ranked 40, and had proven himself a dangerous opponent many times in his long career: explosive, unpredictable, and with two wins from four against the talented young Croat.

The ever-watchable No27 seed Nick Kyrgios, often injured, often brilliant, would attempt to match or better his two previous Miami semis when he met No44 ranked Dusan Lajovic, the man who ousted both Pablo Cuevas and Nishikori on his way to the third round.

There was one match between two non-seeds, a fascinating encounter that had the potential to be the contest of the day between two young, in-form men: Teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime faced 22-year-old Hubert Hurkacz, both making their Miami main-draw debut.

Hurkacz was 3-3 against top-10 players this year, including Thiem in Miami, plus Nishikori in Dubai and Indian Wells. He was up to a career-high No54 in the ranks.

Auger-Aliassime reached his first final at Rio, the youngest player ever to make a 500 final. He came into the draw ranked No57, forced to qualify, but beating No29 seed Marton Fucsovics to reach the third round. The winner would face No17 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat Robin Haase, 7-6(3), 6-3.

There were also, however, two matches in the top quarter between the allotted seeds. The first was between No22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, the resilient Spaniard who won Doha via Djokovic in January, and headed to the Australian quarters, and the No15 seed Fabio Fognini.

The Italian had beaten the Spaniard in six of their eight meetings, but the in-form Bautista Agut was ready for an upset: He won the battle of the 30-somethings, 6-4, 6-4. His reward? Most likely Djokovic—though he beat the Serb in that Doha run.

The other match between two seeds gave British No19 seed Kyle Edmund the formidable challenge of No12 Milos Raonic. The Canadian had won their only previous match, two years ago, a three-setter in Delray Beach. This one would be almost as close as their rankings.

Edmund was the one to get the break in the first set, in the fifth game, held for 4-2, and offered up not a break chance in return. He served out the set, 6-4, after just 41 minutes.

They remained on level terms in the initial games of the second set, but Raonic, so frequently hit by injuries in an otherwise fine young career, then called for the physio for treatment on his back after the third game. His serving, the pivotal element of his game, was now serving at below 40 percent, though when his first serve hit the mark, he continued to win the points.

Raonic took medical advice after the fifth game, too, but his attacking moves were working a little better, and he pressed Edmund to deuce in the eighth game. The Briton, however, was up to the test, and then thumped a backhand return of serve to go 0-30 in the next game. An error from Raonic, and Edmund pumped his fist: it was three break points. A long baseline rally, great retrieval from the backhand wing, earned its reward—he broke, 5-4, and would serve for the match.

And a final forehand did the job with a roar, and a clenched fist to this box: It had been a strong performance, he faced no break points, and his backhand went from strength to strength, helping to set up his pile-driver forehand.

It has been a slow start to the year for the Briton, after reaching a career-high No14 last October. A year after reaching the Australian Open semis in 2018, he suffered two first-round losses in Australia this time around, and finally took time out with a knee injury. He made his return via the Indian Wells Challenger, which he won, and made the third round of the Masters there.

Now, he is playing with the confidence of a man who feels 100 percent fit. And he sounded as much, talking after the match:

“You just have to give yourself a chance really, get balls back. Put the ball in court and run you’re a*** off, really. To break him once each set was huge.

“It’s frustrating when you’re not on court, you feel you’re standing still… But the goal was to get the body right, get on the match court… I like how I’m progressing.”

And what of his next opponent, who would pose a very similar problem: Isner. For it was indeed the American who came through a tough test against Ramos-Vinolas, 7-5, 7-6(6).

He was broken at the start the match, but broke back immediately, and then broke again to get the opener. Isner was forced to save three break points in the second set and unable to earn one of his own, but his serving stood up, 28/31 of first deliveries, and in just a few minutes short of two hours, he sealed the win.

Edmund admitted of the next test:

“Similar kind of match-up against him, but he plays a heavy ball… Defending champion, he knows how to win here. All I can do is go out and do my best.”

He will draw still more confidence from his last match against the big American: Edmund won their third-round meeting at the US Open in 2016, in a fourth-set tie-breaker.

• Novak Djokovic beat Federico Delbonis 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 and Felix Auger Aliassime beat Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(5), 6-4.

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