By Tucker Verdi
Pablo Carreño Busta lost the third set to Kevin Anderson 6-7 two weeks ago in Indian Wells, with the South African prevailing 8-6 in the tiebreak.
Who knew that Carreño Busta would get a chance to avenge that bitterly narrow loss with an almost identical scoreline?
But that’s exactly how it went down, with the Spaniard prevailing 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6) in 2 hours and 42 minutes. It was his first win over Anderson, his most significant loss coming last year in the semifinals of the US Open in 4 sets. Carreño Busta has been steadily playing the big man better, and it showed with his mental toughness in overcoming two match points that he failed to convert while up a break in the second set.
“I served for the match in the second set, 40-15,” the 26-year-old explained after his big win, “and he played some unbelievable points, passing shots, returning really good, winner with his forehand.
“And after that it was a really tough mental moment for me after losing the second set. But I continued, on court, I continued fighting. At the end of the match, I saved a match point with his serve in the tiebreak, and finally I won.”
The point he was referring to was Anderson’s match point while serving 6-5 in the tiebreak. Carreño Busta fended that point off, and won the next two to clinch his second-ever Master 1000 semifinal.
Carreño Busta’s next test will be Alexander Zverev, who seems to have found his groove after two early tests here in Key Biscayne.
In the first two rounds, Zverev faced tough three-setters against Danill Medvedev and David Ferrer before dialing it in and downing Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 6-4.
He used the same scoreline against No. 29 seed Borna Coric on Thursday night. In a match that got an even later start than anticipated, the 20-year-old German played a consistent match, fending off the only two break points he faced and breaking Coric once in each set for another 6-4, 6-4 win.
Zverev is the highest ranked player still remaining in Miami, with Federer, Cilic, and Dimitrov being ousted early on. He has a chance to return to his career-high ranking of No. 3 in the world if he takes the title. Standing in his way first? Pablo Carreño Busta.
Carreño Busta may be the lower-seeded player at No. 16, but he’ll have an advantage that he says helped get him through the match with Anderson: the crowd.
“When I lost the second set, maybe at the beginning of the third set, I was a little bit tired [physically] and mentally, also,” he answered in response to a question about the fans boosting his morale. “It was the crowd who started to say ‘Vamos, Pablo.’
“And on the 3-All [in the third], I just started to believe in myself again, to believe in my game, to be aggressive again. I think the victory is 50% because of them.”
Anyone looking to cheer on either Carreño Busta or Zverev, the two will battle it out in the night session on Friday, March 30 at 7:00 PM.