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Controversy, drama result in Djokovic vs. Nishikori semifinal at Sony Open


Miami, Ricky Dimon
After a wild Wednesday at the Sony Open Tennis tournament in Miami, the first men’s singles semifinal is set. It will not be a rematch of the Indian Wells final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Instead, Djokovic will be going up against Kei Nishikori.

Djokovic beat Andy Murray 7-5, 6-3 before Nishikori upset Federer 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Despite the straightforward scoreline compared to that of the nightcap, even Djokovic’s quarterfinal win was not without some dramatic moments. With Murray serving at 5-5 in the first set, Djokovic appeared to reach over the net to put away a volley for a 0-15 lead. The Serb even admitted it, but chair umpire Damian Steiner said that the racket had made contact with the ball prior to crossing the net. Obviously disgusted although keeping his outward emotions mostly in check, Murray promptly dropped serve at love to end the set. That meant that Murray, who had earned a break point at 5-5, lost the final seven points of the opening frame.

“Look, I’m going to be completely honest with you,” Djokovic told the press. “I did pass the net with my racket and I told Andy that. I told him that I did not touch the net. My bad. I thought that it’s allowed, to cross on his side without touching the net. That’s why I thought I won the point.

“I did not know that the rule is that I’m not allowed to cross the net. That’s all I can say. At that point I told him, ‘I crossed the net.’ But I thought that it’s allowed without touching the net.”

“From where I was standing, it was a very hard thing to see, but it’s a lot easier if you’re looking straight across the net to see whether someone is over or not,” Murray explained. “For me, it’s impossible to tell from where I was, but I knew it was close. So that’s why I went and asked Novak, and he told me he was over the net. That was it.”

What the second semifinal lacked in controversy, it made up for in competitiveness. An in-form Federer seemed to be on his way to another dominant victory in Miami with a set and a break lead in hand, but Nishikori had other ideas. Japan’s top player had saved four match points to outlast David Ferrer in a third-set tiebreaker the previous day, so he was not about to go down without a fight.

Nishikori broke back then wrapped up each of the final two sets with breaks–at 6-5 in the second and 5-4 in the third. He now leads the head-to-head series against Federer 2-1.

“It’s really a pleasure to beat him and I’m happy to be in the semifinals,” Nishikori said. “I was down a break in the second set but I was returning well. I was serving well, especially in the third set, so that’s why I was holding my serve [easily]…. I thought I really played well. I was hitting both deep and striking well.”

Ricky Dimon is a contributor in Miami and writes for You can follow him on Twitter under @RD_Tennistalk by clicking here.

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