The Pick: Jannik Sinner vs. Karen Khachanov, ATP Miami third round

The Pick: Jannik Sinner vs. Karen Khachanov, ATP Miami third round

If the first two encounters between the Italian and Russian are any indication, tennis fans are in for a treat on Sunday.

They’ve only played twice, but Jannik Sinner and Karen Khachanov know how to deliver the goods. With one win apiece, each encounter between the prodigiously talented Sinner and Khachanov ended with a deciding tie-break. Khachanov physically outlasted Sinner at the 2020 US Open, while the Italian avenged that defeat in Melbourne last month, erasing a match point in the process.

According to a new Instagram account that gathers condition intel from players on-site, the courts in Miami are "playing medium speed, and the Dunlop ATP Extra Duty ball is fluffing and becoming heavier with every ball struck. These conditions will favor the players who can handle the high bounce, while being able to power through the heavy balls and stay on offense."

If that description doesn’t favor the teenager, who according to Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers owns the world’s heaviest backhand, I’m not sure what will. Sinner’s constant offense and power led him to a convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory over promising Frenchman Hugo Gaston. but Khachanov looked fantastic in his 6-3, 6-2 dismissal of Yannick Hanfmann. This is shaping up to be another slugfest between the two evenly-matched players. 

This clash will likely come down to who strikes their forehand better, as both players own rock-solid backhands. Sinner should find success in ripping the Russian off the court to his forehand side. 

Khachanov is evolving into somewhat of a grinder, but power is there if required. He'll certainly need it against Sinner, and even though he’d rather not, he should pull the trigger when given the chance in order to control the rallies. 

But Sinner seems like an opportunistic young man. The 19-year-old won his ATP final debut last year over Vasek Pospisil in Sofia, and followed that up with a second title in as many attempts at Melbourne's Great Ocean Road Open to begin his 2021 season.

His section’s most intimidating adversary, Alexander Zverev, fell to Emil Ruusuvuori on Friday, clearing the way for a potential semifinal matchup with Daniil Medvedev. This is, without question, the weakest Masters 1000 field in recent memory, so look for Sinner to capitalize on his opportunity. 

The Pick: Jannik Sinner