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Carlos Alcaraz of Spain fields questions from the media during the Miami Open. Image Credit: AFP

Miami Gardens: Former world No 1 Andy Murray said Carlos Alcaraz has all the attributes to stay at the top of men’s tennis for as long as he wants and hopes the Spaniard stays fit enough to keep playing with the style that drove him to the top of the rankings.

Alcaraz won the US Open in September and became the youngest player to top the world rankings at 19 but suffered an abdominal issue at the Paris Masters in November and pulled out of the Australian Open with a leg problem.

Briefly supplanted by 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, Alcaraz roared back to the top by winning Indian Wells and is preparing to defend his Miami Open title.

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Andy Murray serves during his first-round loss against Dusan Lajovic in Miami. Image Credit: AFP

“He has an excellent game, an all-around game that I think will translate well onto all surfaces,” said Murray, who lost his opening match in Miami to Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-5 on Wednesday.

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he can serve big. He’s an unbelievable mover, great athlete. Has a lot of variety. Takes the ball on a lot. That’s something you hope he keeps.

Exctiting to watch

“I know from experience that it’s a bit easier playing that way when you’re 18 or 19 and there’s not any scar tissue. I hope he maintains that style of play because it’s exciting to watch.”

Murray said fans must not overburden Alcaraz with expectations. “I know a lot of people are expecting everyone to win 20-plus Grand Slams now, like that’s normal. I wouldn’t predict that for anyone,” Murray said.

“I would imagine he would be right at the top of the game for as long as he wants to play.”

Former US Open champions Emma Raducanu and Sloane Stephens were knocked out, hours after No 1-ranked and defending champion Iga Swiatek pulled out of the tournament because of a rib injury.

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Former US Open winner Bianca Andreescu improved her record against Emma Raducanu. Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Bianca Andreescu — the 2019 US Open champ — defeated Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Andreescu improved to 2-0 lifetime against Raducanu, the 2021 winner at Flushing Meadows.

Special place

“Miami has a special place in my heart,” Andreescu said. “I’ve been coming here since I was I think 12 years old, whether it’s for vacation or training or, yeah, Orange Bowl. I love that tournament very much. Yeah, coming back here, I think it’s just good vibes overall.”

Andreescu moves on to face 10th-ranked Maria Sakkari, who had a first-round bye.

Shelby Rogers beat Stephens 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Stephens has six hard-court titles, including the US Open in 2017 and Miami in 2018.

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Shelby Rogers acknowledges the crowd's cheers after winning the match against Slaone Stephens.

Rogers will face Australian Open champion and world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat Rogers in the second round at Melbourne Park. Sabalenka is coming off a loss in the final at Indian Wells, California, last week.

Last-minute decision

Swiatek withdrew because of a rib injury that she is hoping will heal during a break from competition. The 21-year-old from Poland also will sit out her country’s Billie Jean King Cup qualifier matches against Kazakhstan on April 13-14.

“I wanted to wait till the last minute to decide whether to play in Miami,” Swiatek said at a news conference at the site of the hard-court tournament that began on Tuesday.

Smart move

“We were checking if this is the kind of injury you can still play with or you can get things worse. So I think the smart move for me is to pull out of this tournament because I want to rest and take care of it properly.”

In other action, 24-year-old American J.J. Wolf defeated Alexander Bublik 7-5, 6-3. He’ll face No. 7-ranked Andrey Rublev, who had a first-round bye.

Gael Monfils retired from his match against Ugo Humbert due to a persistent wrist injury.