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Djokovic downs Nadal for fourth Sony Open title in Miami

Djokovic downs Nadal for fourth Sony Open title in Miami


IMG_8540_DjokovicMiami, Ricky Dimon
The fourth time was not the charm for Rafael Nadal. Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, made his fourth time look easy.

Djokovic captured his fourth title at the Sony Open Tennis tournament and dropped Nadal to 0-4 for his career in Miami finals with a 6-3, 6-3 rout on Sunday afternoon. The Serb saved the only break point he faced the entire way in the very first game of the match before cruising in one hour and 23 minutes.

After missing his chance at 30-40 in the opening game, Nadal was rarely competitive. He dropped serve at 2-3 in the first set and Djokovic was off to the races. Miami’s No. 2 seed lost a combined two points in his next two service games to bag the opener. It was all but over when Djokovic broke right away to begin the second with a crushing backhand winner.

For good measure, Djokovic capped off the match in style with his third break of the day. The two competitors saved their best point for last, with Nadal serving at 3-5, 15-40. A furious rally ended when Djokovic answered a backhand volley by the Spaniard with a forehand into the open court.

“This tournament has been perfect from the beginning to the end,” Djokovic reflected. “The matches that I have played I played really well, and I elevated my game as the tournament progressed. The best performance of the tournament came in the right moment on Sunday against the biggest rival.”

“Just the fact that I’m playing against Nadal and playing in the finals, fighting for (the) trophy is already a huge motivation and responsibility to try to perform my best and to kind of be at the right intensity and right focus. I didn’t have any letdowns throughout the whole match. I was in a very high level; serve, backhand, cross-court, forehand…. I have done everything right and I’m thrilled with my performance.”

Nadal did not have to offer much analysis of his own game, because his opponent was simply too good.

“Easy to analyze,” the world No. 1 assured. “[Djokovic] was better than me. That’s it. Some matches are more difficult to say. This one was not that difficult in general. He was better than me in everything.

“Today I felt that he played great, but I feel that he doesn’t need to hit a great shot to be an advantage on the point. So playing against him is the worst thing that can happen for me, because in general, talking about the first two shots, he has a better return than my one, he has a better serve than my one. In this surface especially.”

The surface now changes to clay after a week of Davis Cup quarterfinal action. Nadal and Djokovic are expected back on court for the Monte-Carlo Masters next month.

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

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Serena captures a record-setting seventh Sony Open title

Serena captures a record-setting seventh Sony Open title

IMG_8162_Serena(March 29, 2014) Serena Williams came back from a 2-5 deficit in the first set to win 11 of the next 12 game to close out Li Na 7-5, 6-1 to claim a record-setting seventh Sony Open title on Saturday.

This marks Williams’ 59th title of her career, 14 more than any other currently active player on the WTA Tour and the seventh most in history.

Williams came out sluggish in the first set going down two breaks to Li to trail 2-5. Li served for the set twice and had one set point which Williams overcame.

“I don’t think I was play(ing) bad,” Li said. “Maybe she just start a little bit better after 5‑2 down.”

“Sometimes I do get off to a slow start, but then again, sometimes I get off to a fast start,” Williams said.

“I just remember being down. She was playing so well, and at that point I just was trying to just stay focused and stay in the game.

“Then I remember really ‑‑ some of the crowd was so intense. I thought, Wow, they really want to see a good match, I’ve got to try harder, I’ve got to do better.

“That really helped me a lot.”

“I really thought I could do better at this point,” Williams explained. “My serve, percentage was super, super low, I think in the 30s, and I thought, Okay, I can serve a little better, and I know I can return better, and I’m practicing all these years and I have a good return. I need to start doing it. I need to start doing what I practice.

“And no joke. So many people in the crowd were saying, Come on, Serena. That was such a great feeling for me. I really definitely think the crowd got me through this match.”

During the trophy ceremony, the two 32-year-old veterans shared a laugh on the podium.

“I just feel that both she and I, we just have this never‑give‑up fight, and it just goes to show that, you know, you can still shine at any age.” Williams commented.

“We were talking about for sure before the match they say, Oh, two old women come to the final,” Li said with a smile.

“Yeah, because a little bit laughing about our age.”

“I was so happy for her and us and how we were doing,” Williams said.

“We’re playing great tennis and we’re both 1 and 2 and, you know, we’re both the same age.

“For me, it was just an honor to be there with her. We have had ‑‑ we are living the same life, and at this stage, to be on top, I don’t think it’s been done before and I think it’s really awesome.

“I definitely feel like she deserved praise. Especially winning the Australian was great.”

Williams is the oldest player, at 32 years and six months, to win the Miami title; Chris Evert (in 1986) is the only other player to have won the title after their 30th birthday.

Williams is the fourth player, after Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, in the Open Era to win the same tournament seven or more times.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor in Miami. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Nadal overcomes Raonic, joins Berdych in Sony Open semifinals

Nadal overcomes Raonic, joins Berdych in Sony Open semifinals


IMG_8089_NadalMiami, Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal passed his first real test of the Sony Open Tennis tournament with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Milos Raonic during semifinal action on Thursday night. Nadal held his last nine service games and won 20 of 24 service points in the third set before advancing in two hours and 35 minutes.

Raonic had never taken a set off Nadal in four previous meetings and the underdog was going up against an opponent who had dropped a mere nine games in his first three Miami matches. Still, Raonic showed plenty of belief. The 6’5” Canadian saved all three of the break points he faced in the opening frame of play and clinched it when Nadal double-faulted down set point at 4-5.

From there, however, it was all Nadal. The top-ranked Spaniard surged to a 4-0 lead in the second set and earned the decisive break at 3-3 in the third.

“I was lucky at the beginning of the second set,” Nadal explained. “I started with a break and (that) was very important for me. I felt that I finished the match playing better. I think I started the match playing okay, playing well but not playing well (on) the break points.”

Next up for the No. 1 seed is Tomas Berdych, who got the best of Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4, 7-6(3). Berdych fired 11 aces and battled back from a break down in each of the two sets as he prevailed in one hour and 45 minutes. Dolgopolov, an Indian Wells semifinalist, was doomed by 48 percent serving and just 35 percent of his second-serve points won.

Berdych is now 4-0 lifetime against Dolgopolov, but the story is a much different one against Nadal. The Czech trails the head-to-head series 17-3 and has lost 16 consecutive matches.

“I don’t even know the number, Berdych said, referring to his streak of futility with Nadal on the other side of the net “I stopped counting.”

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

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Serena Williams, Li Na advance to the 2014 Sony Open Final

Serena Williams, Li Na advance to the 2014 Sony Open Final

IMG_7891_SerenaSerena Williams beat Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the Sony Open final. For the 17-time major winner, it was her 15th straight win over the Russian improving her record overall to 16-2.

The American had to rally from deficits in each set during her semifinal match – 1-4 in the first set and 0-2 in the second.

“I wasn’t playing my best,” Williams said. “I knew if I wanted to stay in the tournament and make another final, I just had to play better.”

“I started off really well, and I was up in a lot of the games and didn’t win them today.” Sharapova said.

“The first set started off really well and I had more break points. She served her way out of trouble on those in the first set, and then the second set was up 2‑0, 40‑15, which was a game I should have taken, pretty important game.

“Yeah, I was in it and then I was not.”

“I have always felt when I’m playing at my best, then it’s hard for people to beat me,” Williams said. “But I have to get there, and it’s hard to always be at your best, obviously.

“I think that is what’s special, and that’s why there is a lot of rivals now.”

“Despite my results against her, I still look forward to playing against her because you learn so much from that type of level which she produces,” Sharapova explained.

“You finish the match, and you know where you need to improve and the things that you need to work on, because someone like her who is so powerful and explosive and, you know, is in there every point, that teaches you to make sure that you’re in there every point and you’re doing your thing, you know, consistently, not just for a short period of time.”

No. 1 Williams will face No. 2 Li Na in the final on Saturday. In a rematch of the Australian Open final Li beat Dominka Cibulkova 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. rebounding from a 1-3 deficit in the final set.

For Li it will be her first Miami final. Williams will be attempting to defend her title and win a record seventh Sony Open crown. Williams has a 10-1 record against Li.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor in Miami. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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

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

IMG_7552_Djokovic

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 tenngrand.com. You can follow him on Twitter under @RD_Tennistalk by clicking here.

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Li Na, Cibulkova advance to Sony Open semifinals

Li Na, Cibulkova advance to Sony Open semifinals

IMG_7825_LiIt will be a rematch of the Australian Open women’s final in the semifinal of the Sony Open as both Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova advanced on Wednesday. Li won the Australian Open in straight sets for her second major title.

No. 10 seed Dominika Cibulkova saved three match points in the second set en route to a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 2 Li Na won the last 4 straight games to close out Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 7-5.

Cibulkova won despite poor serving and unforced errors. She had her serve broken 10 times and double-faulted 8 times, committing 51 unforced errors.

One of her match points saved came on a controversial call which was overturned due a challenge.

He match against Radwanska was a repeat of the Australian Open semifinal where the Slovak won over the Pole to make her first major final.

The Slovak who is in the Sony Open semis for the first time, will enter the top ten for the first time when the rankings come out on Monday.

“I’m really glad, especially about my win today,” Cibulkova said.

“It wasn’t easy at all to play today against Aga with the wind and conditions, and I had to stay aggressive all the time even if I missed many shots, you know. I just had to keep going.

“So today the match was really tough, and I’m happy about everything, you know. Before the match, even before the tournament, like they keep asking me, Top 10 and everything, and I just, you know, I just said, like, Okay, if I should be there, I will be there. If I should not be there, I will not be there.

“So now I’m there. So finally it’s over.”

“I think it was so close, the second set,” Radwanska said. “But I think, you know, in those matches you have to play good and you have to be lucky.

“I was just playing good and she was both.”

With Li Na’s win, she become the first Chinese player to reach the Sony Open semifinals.

“I think today I was feeling she was the best to defend in all the tour, so I was feeling a little bit like player against a wall,” Li said about her match against Wozniacki. “Because doesn’t matter where is it. She always come and put the ball back to my court.

“After I was finished the match, I was feeling, Wow, you doing good. You beat a wall. Yeah.”

On Thursday six–time Sony Open winner No. 1 Serena Williams will take on five-time finalist and No. 4 seed Maria Sharapova in the first women’s semifinal. Williams holds a 15-2 record against the Russian, winning the last 14 straight matches dating back to 2004.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor in Miami. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Federer, Nadal remain on fire at Sony Open

Federer, Nadal remain on fire at Sony Open

IMG_7422_FedererIt’s still a long way away with two of the greatest players of all time on opposite sides of the draw, but Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are playing like they want to deliver another installment of one of tennis’ best-ever rivalries in the final of the Sony Open Tennis tournament.

Federer and Nadal lost a combined lost a combined seven games in fourth-round blowouts on Tuesday. The fifth-ranked Swiss rolled over Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-2 during the afternoon before Nadal eased past Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-2 at night.

In three matches so far, Federer has not dropped a set and he has surrendered only nine games in total in his last two rounds. The Indian Wells runner-up turned in a near-flawless performance against Gasquet, striking six aces without double-faulting while converting five of six break chances and saving the only break point he faced.

“Things went well out on the court today,” Federer assured. “I served well. I made my returns I had to and stayed aggressive, so I didn’t let him just make errors. I forced him to do stuff. It was a good match for me.”

It was hardly a match at all for Nadal against an uninspired Fognini. The Italian never appeared to have any belief and he also moved gingerly with his thigh heavily taped. It all resulted in one hours and two minutes of one-way traffic. Miami’s No. 1 seed has now yielded a mere nine games in three matches at this event.

“I think I was very focused and solid with my serve,” Nadal explained. “That’s very important thing for me and my game when I am playing on hard.”

Andy Murray had a similarly routine day at the office in a 6-4, 6-1 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray lost a miniscule six points in eight service games while advancing in one hour and 13 minutes. Next up for the Scot is a showdown with Novak Djokovic, who defeated Tommy Robredo 6-3, 7-5.

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

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Sharapova to face Serena in the Sony Open Semifinal

Sharapova to face Serena in the Sony Open Semifinal

IMG_7216_SharapovaIt will be a Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova semifinal at the Sony Open and both women defeated quarterfinal opponents in straight sets.

No. 1 Serena Williams made quick work of No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-2 in the first match of the night session on Tuesday.

“I’m playing a little better,” Williams said. “I had to play better. As the tournament progresses you can’t get worse, you have to get better.

“I’m happy to be doing a little better.”

No. 4 seed Maria Sharapova came back from a break down in the first set in a rematch of the 2011 Wimbledon final to top Petra Kvitova 7-5, 6-1.

“I started getting more chances as we played more games in the first set,” Sharapova said.

“Little by little I started seeing more opportunities and started getting myself back in the points and playing my game, playing well, going inside the baseline.

“You never are sure until you finish the match and you win the last point, but I really felt like I started doing the right things.”

It will be Williams against Sharapova for a place in the Key Biscayne final. Williams holds an overwhelming lead against the Russian 15-2. The last time Sharapova beat Williams was back in 2004.

“I love playing her,” said the six-time Sony Open winner

Williams about playing Sharapova. “I really do. Doesn’t matter what surface or anything. She’s one of my favorite people to play.”

“It’s no secret that she’s been a big challenge of mine, an opponent that obviously I would love to beat,” Sharapova said. “There are certainly, you know, ways that I need to step up in certain situations that I haven’t been able to do in the past against her.”

Karen Pestaina is a contributor in Miami. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Nadal, Wawrinka remain on Sony Open semifinal collision course

Nadal, Wawrinka remain on Sony Open semifinal collision course

IMG_7164_NadalA rematch of this year’s Australian Open title match in the semifinals of the Sony Open Tennis tournament is looking more and more likely with each passing round. Rafael Nadal took care of Denis Istomin in round-of-32 action on Monday and Stanislas Wawrinka beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin, also in straight sets.

Nadal was especially ruthless. The world No. 1, whose Aussie Open final setback against Wawrinka was one of just two losses for him this season compared to 19 wins, destroyed Istomin 6-1, 6-0 in just 59 minutes. Nadal struck three aces without double-faulting, served at 77 percent, and saved all three of the break points he faced.

“I played a very complete match,” Miami’s top seed assured. “No mistakes, serving with good percentage, and playing a lot of winners. My movements were better than what I did (in the) last events.”

Wawrinka, whose last event also saw him tumble out of Indian Wells–like Nadal–prior to the quarterfinals, scored a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Roger-Vasselin. The third-ranked Swiss broke serve at 6-5 in the first and 5-4 in the second to wrap up both of the sets in style.

“[Roger-Vasselin] beat me last year in Basel; I won this year in final of Chennai,” Wawrinka reflected. “He’s always tough to play. I’m happy the way I was fighting, the way I was positive even if I wasn’t playing so well at the beginning.”

John Isner, the United States’ last hope even before the third round started, had little trouble from start to finish against Nicolas Almagro. Isner fought off two break points in the opening set but for the most part held serve comfortably the entire way in a 7-5, 6-3 win. The world No. 10 blasted 17 aces, put in 70 percent of his first deliveries, and lost only five points in five second-set service games.

Isner will face Tomas Berdych during a terrific fourth-round lineup on Tuesday. Other matches include Nadal vs. Fabio Fognini and Wawrinka vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov.

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

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Serena, Sharapova advance to quarterfinals of Sony Open

Serena, Sharapova advance to quarterfinals of Sony Open

IMG_7084_SerenaIn a tale of two different matches, expected results as No. 1 Serena Williams and fourth seed Maria Sharapova reached the quarterfinals of the Sony Open on Monday.

Williams dismissed American countrywoman qualifier CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-1 to reach the elite 8 in Miami for the 13th time in 14 appearances.

After her first two matches in the tournament she showed some rust, Williams cleaned up her game hitting 17 winners to only 11 unforced errors and stopping all six break points she faced.

“I was definitely happier today,” Williams said. “I was really struggling my first two matches, so I just wanted to have a better performance today.”

Next up for Williams will be the No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber, who beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

“It will be good to play a different opponent,” Williams said. “I feel like I have played the same person three times in a row. It will be nice to play a lefty, someone that just plays different.

“Angelique has been able to beat me in the past, so I have to be really focused and be ready in that match.”

Maris Sharapova had to reset from a first set drubbing to beat Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The Belgium jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set and Sharapova could only win five points during those four games. In the second set Sharapova jumped out to a 4-0 lead, then Flipkens won 4 out of 5 games, but Sharapova broke serve to take the set 6-4.

“I usually like playing the first match, but I didn’t start off the way I wanted to,” Sharapova said. “Nothing was working.”

Sharapova’s momentum carried over into the final set where she kept her errors low and her aggression high, dropping only one more game.

Final stats for Sharapova- 36 unforced errors, 13 winners and 10 double-faults.

Sharapova will play the woman she lost to in the 2011 Wimbledon finals, No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. Kvitova regrouped to stop Ana Ivanovic 3-6, 6-0, 6-0.

“We haven’t played for a long time, but we have always had interesting, tough matches against each other,” Sharapova said.

Second seed Li Na took apart Carla Suarez-Navarro 6-0, 6-2.

Caroline Wozniacki continued her dominance over US players. For the second match in a row she gives up only 1 game in a 6-0, 6-1 win over Vavara Lepchenko.

In the night session, Dominika Cibulkova held back a fighting Venus Williams 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals. In a rematch of the recent Australian Open semi Cibulkova will play Agniezska Radwanska.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor in Miami. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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