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Former Miami Open Champions Venus and Azarenka Star Attraction on Thursday

Former Miami Open Champions Venus and Azarenka Star Attraction on Thursday

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Two decades after winning the first of her three Miami Open trophies, Venus Williams opens up the day session on stadium court against 27 year old qualifier Dalila Jakupovic in the first round.

Australian Open finalist and 2 time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova begins her campaign by battling dangerous Greek talent Maria Sakkari in second round action. The last ladies match on stadium court features a second round contest between 2011 U.S. Open titlist Samantha Stosur and 2017 U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys.

Just one day after fending off 2014 Australian finalist Dominika Cibulkova in three tough sets, three time Miami Open titlist Victoria Azarenka takes on 19th seed Carolina Garcia for a spot in the third round. 2017 Miami Open victor Johanna Konta hopes to recapture the magic of yesteryears as she clashes with American qualifier Jessica Pegula.

Here is the complete order of play for Thursday, March 21, 2019:

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2019

STADIUM start 12:00 noon
WTA – [Q] D. Jakupovic (SLO) vs V. Williams (USA)
ATP – [WC] C. Eubanks (USA) vs D. Dzumhur (BIH)

Not Before 4:00 pm
WTA – [3] P. Kvitova (CZE) vs M. Sakkari (GRE)

Not Before 7:30 pm
WTA – S. Stosur (AUS) vs [17] M. Keys (USA)

Not Before 9:00 pm
ATP – S. Querrey (USA) vs [WC] D. Ferrer (ESP)

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
ATP – T. Sandgren (USA) vs [Q] A. Bublik (KAZ)

Not Before 2:00 pm
WTA – Y. Wang (CHN) vs K. Mladenovic (FRA)
ATP – F. Lopez (ESP) vs B. Paire (FRA)

Not Before 5:00 pm
WTA – [19] C. Garcia (FRA) vs V. Azarenka (BLR)

Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP – E. Gulbis (LAT) vs [WC] M. Kecmanovic (SRB)

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
ATP – C. Norrie (GBR) vs J. Thompson (AUS)

Not Before 12:30 pm
WTA – S. Zhang (CHN) vs P. Martic (CRO) 02
ATP – M. Marterer (GER) vs T. Fritz (USA)
ATP – J. Sousa (POR) vs [WC] C. Tseng (TPE)
ATP – [Q] R. Opelka (USA) vs J. Struff (GER)
WTA – [WC] Xiy. Wang (CHN) vs [7] K. Bertens (NED)

BUTCH BUCHHOLZ start 11:00 am
ATP – L. Mayer (ARG) vs [Q] M. Ymer (SWE)

Not Before 12:30 pm
ATP – T. Fabbiano (ITA) vs I. Ivashka (BLR) 46 30
WTA – I. Begu (ROU) vs B. Andreescu (CAN) 00
WTA – O. Jabeur (TUN) vs A. Van Uytvanck (BEL) 00
WTA – J. Konta (GBR) vs [Q] J. Pegula (USA)
WTA – S. Sorribes Tormo (ESP) vs [26] D. Vekic (CRO)

COURT 6 start 11:00 am
ATP – R. Haase (NED) vs [Q] L. Lacko (SVK)
WTA – [WC] W. Osuigwe (USA) vs [WC] M. Osaka (JPN)
WTA – A. Tomljanovic (AUS) vs A. Friedsam (GER) 46 00
ATP – [Q] R. Albot (MDA) vs M. Ebden (AUS)
WTA – [Q] K. Muchova (CZE) vs [Q] N. Hibino (JPN)
ATP – P. Herbert (FRA) vs F. Krajinovic (SRB)
ATP – P. Andujar (ESP) vs I. Karlovic (CRO)

COURT 8 start 11:00 am
WTA – [Q] K. Kanepi (EST) vs A. Riske (USA)
ATP – D. Lajovic (SRB) vs [Q] P. Cuevas (URU)
WTA – V. Lapko (BLR) vs A. Cornet (FRA) 57 76(7) 10
WTA – [Q] V. Golubic (SUI) vs A. Sasnovich (BLR)
ATP – [LL] D. Evans (GBR) vs M. Jaziri (TUN)
WTA – [12] A. Barty (AUS) vs D. Yastremska (UKR)
ATP – [LL] M. McDonald (USA) vs U. Humbert (FRA)

COURT 9 start 11:00 am
WTA – [Q] S. Vickery (USA) vs [Q] Y. Wickmayer (BEL)
WTA – [Q] T. Townsend (USA) vs J. Larsson (SWE)
WTA – R. Peterson (SWE) vs [Q] L. Siegemund (GER)
WTA – [Q] M. Niculescu (ROU) vs T. Zidansek (SLO)
WTA – M. Rybarikova (SVK) vs [15] J. Goerges (GER)
ATP – A. Mannarino (FRA) vs A. Bedene (SLO)

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
WTA – [WC] Xin. Wang (CHN) vs [Q] M. Doi (JPN)
ATP – M. Klizan (SVK) vs [Q] L. Sonego (ITA)
ATP – [Q] F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) vs [Q] C. Ruud (NOR)
ATP – J. Munar (ESP) vs [Q] P. Gunneswaran (IND)

COURT 3 start 1:00 pm
ATP – J. Chardy (FRA) vs N. Jarry (CHI) 00
ATP – [Q] A. Rublev (RUS) vs T. Daniel (JPN)
ATP – A. Zverev (GER) / M. Zverev (GER) vs M. Gonzalez (ARG) / H. Zeballos (ARG)
WTA – B. Bencic (SUI) / D. Kasatkina (RUS) vs [4] N. Melichar (USA) / K. Peschke (CZE)

COURT 5 start 11:00 am
ATP – K. Khachanov (RUS) / D. Medvedev (RUS) vs W. Koolhof (NED) / S. Tsitsipas (GRE)
ATP – S. Johnson (USA) / D. Thiem (AUT) vs [7] M. Granollers (ESP) / N. Mektic (CRO)

Not Before 1:00 pm
ATP – M. Copil (ROU) vs A. Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
ATP – B. Tomic (AUS) vs [Q] T. Monteiro (BRA)

COURT 7 start 11:00 am
WTA – E. Mertens (BEL) / A. Sabalenka (BLR) vs D. Collins (USA) / J. Ostapenko (LAT)
WTA – [WC] C. Gauff (USA) vs [WC] C. Mcnally (USA)
WTA – V. Kuzmova (SVK) vs D. Gavrilova (AUS)
WTA – A. Schmiedlova (SVK) vs T. Maria (GER)

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Miami Open: New Home with Same Residents as Serena, Djokovic and Federer Get Acclimated

Miami Open: New Home with Same Residents as Serena, Djokovic and Federer Get Acclimated

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There was no azure sky to welcome the Miami Open at its new venue as a constant drizzle washed out the first round of play. Nevertheless, two weeks of exhilarating tennis prepare to unfold as many familiar faces will parade through with the goal of capturing the title.

On the gentlemen’s side, three time champion Roger Federer is on a collision course in the quarterfinals with 2018 Wimbledon Finalist Kevin Anderson. The South African surprised the former world number one in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year after Federer was up two sets to none. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 20 year Greek, who upended Federer a few months ago at the Australian Open could be Federer’s opponent in the semifinals.

Fresh off his biggest title at Indian Wells, Dominic Thiem will attempt to garner the rare sunshine double. However, he will likely need to go through reigning world number one Novak Djokovic, a six time titlist in Miami. Moreover, John Isner, the defending champion will have plenty to say. He is slated to clash with Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Naomi Osaka will have to show the form that led her to capture the last two majors if she plans to walk away with her first trophy in Miami. The world number one could potentially meet Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon champion, in the fourth round or 2018 Australian Open winner, Caroline Wozniacki. In the quarterfinals, 2 time major holder, Angelique Kerber possibly awaits Osaka. To add to the degree of difficulty, the semifinals could be a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final with Petra Kvitová.

Still searching for her maiden trophy since the birth of her baby, Serena Williams is back at one of her favorite events. The eight time titlist will likely find world number two Simona Halep in the quarterfinals in her way. In the semifinals, defending champion Sloane Stephens or Karolina Pliskova could be Serena’s obstacle. Pliskova shocked the 23 time major holder this year in Australia down 1-5 in the third set in the quarterfinals. As a 3 time victor in Miami, unseeded big sister Venus is also a dangerous floater on Serena’s side of the draw as well.

As the storms clear, who will ultimately shine in the South Florida sun on championship day? Stay tuned.

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2019 Miami Open Player Field Announced

2019 Miami Open Player Field Announced

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The 2019 Miami Open will break ground at its new location at the Hard Rock Stadium next month.

Today, the tournament announced the players field that will be taking to courts at the state of the art facilities in Miami Gardens. The ATP and WTA field includes a total of 19 Major singles champions.

The men’s side will be highlighted by the 2019 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic. Joining Djokovic in Miami are the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Juan Martin del Potro and 2018 Miami Open champion John Isner.

The women’s side will be highlighted by the 2019 Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka. Osaka will be joined by defending Miami Open champion Sloane Stephens, Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki.

Here is the official press release from tournament:

Miami Gardens, FL (February 6, 2019) – The 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú will make its debut at Hard Rock Stadium March 18-31, and fans will have the opportunity to see one of the best player fields in tennis at its new lifestyle and entertainment venue.

This year’s extraordinary lineup features 19 players who have combined to win 108 career Grand Slam singles titles including all-time record holders Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Reigning Australian Open champions, and the world’s No. 1 ranked players, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka top one of the strongest ATP and WTA tournament draws of 2019.

Overall, each of the top 79 ranked men and 76 ranked women have entered to compete in Miami.

Federer and Djokovic lead a men’s field that includes 17-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, and former US Open champions Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic, along with defending Miami Open champion John Isner.

The player field also boasts the next generation of ATP stars including World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, Australian Open semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, American Frances Tiafoe and Australian Nick Kyrgios.

The women’s field is even more impressive. Osaka, winner of the last two Grand Slam singles titles, leads a field that includes 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and defending Miami Open champion Sloane Stephens. Fans also will have the opportunity to see seven-time Grand Slam Champion Venus Williams, five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, two-time Grand Slam winner Garbiñe Muguruza, two-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, reigning French Open champion Simona Halep, 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The player field however is just part of the story.

Tournament Owner IMG and Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross partnered to keep the Miami Open in Miami and have worked together to build a permanent world-class tennis facility that will provide an elevated fan experience while incorporating a unique Miami look and feel. The improved amenities will allow the tournament to host a true lifestyle and entertainment event featuring the best in tennis, art, food and music.

Tickets to the 2019 Miami Open are on sale now and available by phone at 305-943-6736 or online at www.miamiopen.com. Individual session tickets start at just $28 so get your tickets today. Ticket packages, group programs, and luxury hospitality offerings also are available.

Qualifying rounds will be March 18-19 and will determine 12 additional slots in each singles draw. The Miami Open also will award wildcards to five men and eight women. The women’s main draw begins on Tuesday, March 19, followed by the first round of the men’s main draw on Wednesday, March 20.

ATP Acceptance List (as of February 6, 2019)

Name Country Rank
Novak Djokovic, SRB, 01
Rafael Nadal, ESP, 02
Alexander Zverev, GER, 03
Juan Martin del Potro, ARG, 04
Kevin Anderson, RSA, 05
Roger Federer, SUI, 06
Kei Nishikori, JPN, 07
Dominic Thiem, AUT, 08
John Isner, USA, 09

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2012 Miami Open Champion Agnieszka Radwanska Announces Retirement

2012 Miami Open Champion Agnieszka Radwanska Announces Retirement

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Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2012 Miami Open champion, announced her retirement from the WTA professional tennis tour. The former world number 2 from Poland made history when she became the first Polish player, man or woman, to reach a Major singles final at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships. Known for her crafty all court game, Radwanska will be missed on the WTA tour.

Here is the official press release from the Women’s Tennis Association:

Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska announced today her retirement from professional tennis. She leaves the game following 20 career WTA singles titles, highlighted by the 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global trophy.

Radwanska became the first player from Poland – man or woman – to reach a Grand Slam singles final at 2012 Wimbledon, which helped her reach a career high ranking of WTA World No.2. She earned over $27.6 million in prize money over her career, which currently ranks seventh on the all-time career prize money earnings list.

“Today, after 13 years of playing tennis competitively, I have decided to end my career,” said Radwanska in her statement. “This was not an easy decision. I am grateful to have so many special memories, including 20 WTA titles, the WTA Championships in Singapore, a Wimbledon final, and so many others.”

In addition to her on court accomplishments, Radwanska, also known as “the Magician” by fans and media due to her crafty style of play, was voted the WTA Fan Favorite for six consecutive years.

“Congratulations to Agnieszka on an outstanding career,” said WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon. “Agnieszka embodies the qualities that make a true champion, on the court delivering world class performances and incredible displays of athleticism, and off the court with her poise, professionalism and support for her fellow players. Agnieszka leaves a legacy on the game across the globe and on behalf of the WTA, she will truly be missed.”

Radwanska played her last professional match in September at the KEB Hana Bank Incheon Airport Korea Open in Seoul.

Click here to read more on Radwanska’s remarkable career.

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Osaka Gives Japan Maiden Major by Upending Serena in the U.S. Open Final

Osaka Gives Japan Maiden Major by Upending Serena in the U.S. Open Final

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships - Day 6 - Saturday 7th July 2018 -  All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club - Wimbledon - London - EnglandBoth U.S. Open finalists were on the precipice of history. For Serena Williams an eighth title at Flushing Meadows would have been another accolade by equalizing Margaret Court with a record 24th major. While for Naomi Osaka lifting the trophy would brand her as the first individual from Japan to ever capture one of the sports’ highest honors. Ultimately, it was the 20 year old who realized her dream. Osaka surprised Serena 6-2, 6-4 to capture the championship.

For Osaka, who as a youngster watched from the top bleacher as her idol held court at this same venue, to be in the final felt “a little bit, surreal. Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam. Just the fact that it’s happening, I’m very happy about it. At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match. Yeah, I shouldn’t really think of her as, like, my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent.” That approach to the biggest encounter of her budding career served her well.

Perhaps it was a display of nerves at the start, but each player overcame a 0-30 deficit in her opening game. However, with Serena’s forehand flying long, Osaka had a break point. With the American miscuing with a double fault, Osaka went up 2-1. Soon, with an ace at 40-15, the Japanese protégé confirmed the break. In the next game, applying pressure with her groundstrokes, Osaka had Serena facing break point. When the American’s backhand found the net, Osaka secured a 4-1 cushion. With a forehand volley winner, Williams secured her initial break point. Coolly with an ace, Osaka was at deuce. With Serena failing to capitalize on another break point, Osaka built a 5-1 lead. Visibly flummoxed, Serena with the support of a boisterous crowd climbed out of 0-30 hole to hold. Yet, Osaka would not be denied. Up 40-15, she saw Serena dump a forehand return into the net to cap the opening set.

Osaka’s best previous showing at a major was the fourth round at this year’s Australian Open where she succumbed to world number one, Simona Halep. Thus far, her first and only career title came this year at Indian Wells. Her next tournament at the Miami Open, she stunned Serena in the early rounds who had been back from maternity leave. But, since March, Osaka’s results had been subpar. Although Osaka had a record 31-0 after winning the first set, this was the big league. The experience chasm which divided these two in terms of experience couldn’t be starker. However, the combination of Serena’s dire 38% first serve stat, her 2-7 mark in major finals after surrendering the first set, the last comeback being 13 years ago at the Australian Open, underlined that Osaka had history on her side.

In the second game with Osaka serving, Serena got saddled with a coaching violation by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s hand gesture, signaling for her to move forward caught the umpire’s eye but was not seen by Williams. Perhaps this infraction was the fuel Serena needed. Up to now, Osaka was a wizard at making break points disappear, 16 in her previous two matches, 13 alone in the semifinals against Madison Keyes and two already today. With a backhand return winner, Serena had her fourth break point of the fourth game. As Osaka’s backhand landed long, Serena finally had chiseled a 3-1 edge. But an ace for 30-15, followed by successive double faults and a backhand error was how Serena’s service game unfolded. She responded by smashing a racket. Tagged with a second code violation, Serena did not realize that it meant an automatic loss of point. With an ace at 40-0, Osaka comfortably held for 3-3. Next, with a backhand up the line return winner, the Japanese hopeful was at 30-40, she connected with a forehand up the line pass winner to seal the break for 4-3.

Incensed, Serena could not let go of what she viewed as an injustice. During the changeover, she labeled Ramos a “thief”. He retaliated by giving her a third code violation for verbal abuse. This time, the consequence was a loss of a game, “I called you a thief because you stole a point from me”. In shock and disbelief, Williams resorted to the referee. But, what was done, could not be undone, Osaka was awarded a game for 5-3 without striking a ball. After Serena’s love hold, it was Osaka’s turn to be under pressure. With an ace, the youngster arrived at 40-15. On her second try, with an unreturnable serve, Osaka closed out the match.

There was no outward excessive celebration by Osaka who had defeated her idol on the largest stage in tennis. Her reaction is reflective of her personality according to her coach Sascha Bajin, Serena’s former hitting partner, who began working with her last November “I think everybody. . .on this planet can learn a lot from that girl in order to maintain that innocence. I believe the more open we are and the more honest we are and show vulnerability sometimes and who we truly are, the better this world is going to be. And all the fake emotions, I’m not a fan of it. I believe that, yeah, she’s a star for that.” Serena hugged her at net and told Ramos “you owe me an apology”.

During the trophy ceremony, Serena did her utmost to shift the spotlight onto Osaka where it belonged “I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t want to do questions. I want to tell you guys, she played well, this is her first grand slam. I know you guys were here rooting for me. Let’s make this the best moment we can. . .Let’s give everyone the credit where the credit is due. . . Congratulations Naomi. No more booing.”

Serena realized the gravity of the situation “I felt at one point bad because I’m crying and she’s crying. . . she just won. I’m not sure if they were happy tears or they were just sad tears because of the moment.. .this isn’t how I felt when I won my first Grand Slam. . . I definitely don’t want her to feel like that.”

Certainly, an awkward time for this 20 year old who with serenity and poise had a fairy tale outcome, but not quite the finish she dreamt of “I know everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this, [with tears streaming down], I just want to say thank you for watching the match. It was always my dream to play Serena in the U.S. Open final. I am glad I was able to do that. I’m grateful I was able to play with you, [turns to Serena and bows], thank you” Osaka displayed mixed emotions “I know she really wanted to have the 24th grand slam. Everyone knows, it’s on the commercials everywhere. When I step on the court, I feel like a different person. I’m not a Serena fan. I’m just a tennis player playing another tennis player. But when we hugged at net, I felt like a kid again. . .When I was growing up, I did a whole report on her in the third grade. [I said] I want to be like her”.

Following her win, she had a touching embrace with her mother “she sacrificed a lot for me. It means a lot for her to come and watch my matches because she normally doesn’t do that. All we are missing is my dad, he doesn’t physically watch my matches, he walks around I will see him later”

Serena is no stranger to controversy at the U.S. Open. In 2004 in the quarterfinals against Jennifer Capriati, at least three blatant ruling errors, including an overrule by the chair umpire on a clear out ball, likely cost her the match. Those flubs ushered in the era of electronic review. In the 2009 semifinals down 4-6, 5-6, a second serve foot fault at 15-30 brought on a harangue which resulted in a second code violation and point penalty to hand Kim Clijsters the match. Serena viewed the coaching violation as unfair “one thing I love about tennis is being out there and it’s the one time I don’t want to hear anyone tell me anything. It’s my moment of peace. You have to figure it out and you have to problem solve.” For Williams, the game penalty was a gender issue “I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. For me to say thief and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said thief. It blows my mind. But, I’m going to continue to fight for women. . .[Alize] Cornet should be able to take off her shirt without getting a fine, it’s outrageous”.

The tennis world is warming up to this newly minted champion, the youngest U.S. Open titlist since Maria Sharapova at age 19 in 2006. Osaka contributes her success to Bajin in turning her from a top 60 player to a top 10 competitor, her ranking will shoot up from 19 to 7. “Sascha is a really nice person, he’s really positive and upbeat. I think for me that’s really important because I tend to be down on myself a lot”.

Has Serena’s behavior soiled her image in her eyes in any way? Osaka cited “I don’t know what happened on the court. For me, I will always remember the Serena that I love, It doesn’t change anything. . .She was really nice at net and on the podium. So I don’t really see what would change”.

Although born in Japan, Osaka represents the quintessential American story. Born to immigrant parents, father is Haitian, mother from Japan. She grew up in Brooklyn and trains in South Florida. If she continues to emulate her idol’s play on court, with her humble demeanor, the U.S. will want to adopt her as their own considering she holds dual citizenpship.

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Federer Overpowers Del Potro as he Moves on to the Round of 16 at the Miami Open

Federer Overpowers Del Potro as he Moves on to the Round of 16 at the Miami Open

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The hype preceding the third round match between Roger Federer and Juan Del Potro was off the decibel meter as these two set to collide in the third round at the Miami Open. Federer conquered the Argentine 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the fourth round.

After two wrists surgeries over the last few years, Del Potro has slowly worked his way back to a ranking of 29. This was the 21st match between the two. Del Potro had beaten the former world number one in the U.S. Open final in 2009 as well as in the final at his home town tournament, Basel, in 2012. Although Federer has a 15-5 mark against the Argentine, Del Potro had won 3 of their ultimate 5 meetings.

The opening set was uneventful until the sixth game when a backhand down the line winner gave Federer double break point. Del Potro rebounded with a couple of great serves to level the set at 3 all. But, he could not escape a second time. Subsequent to a untroubled hold by the reigning Australian Open champion, Del Potro again was asked to overcome 15-40. This time around, when Federer’s forehand pass landed for a winner, he secured the break for 5-3.

Del Potro put up some stiff resistance the next game, getting to 15-40 with a beautiful forehand crosscourt winner. Federer replied with an unreturnable serve and forehand down the line winner for deuce. Two more chances to break for Del Potro went unclaimed. Eventually, two consecutive volley winners allowed Federer to take the set.

The second set was similar to the first with Federer manufacturing 15-40 in the fifth game. Because of a sleuth of miscues by Del Potro, Federer went on to collect the break and swiftly consolidated for 4-2. In the eighth game, Del Potro had an opportunity to break and get back on serve. But, the Argentine’s forehand, his best stroke, failed him. Federer served out the match and booked his place in the round of 16.

Does Del Potro feel a bit unlucky having to deal with the likes of Federer or Novak Djokovic so early in these tournaments? “It’s the luck that I have because of my rankings. Someone has to play them. Physically, I was okay.”

Still, Del Potro is encouraged by his performance today “I had my chances in both sets with break points. But Federer played solid in the important moments. You don’t have to play perfect tennis against Federer to win, but you have to capitalize on your chances. . you have to look at the positive side. At the start of 2016, my dream was just to get back on court, to compete again. I did not expect the success that I had at the Olympics and Davis Cup. I have not hit a two handed backhand for a long time until this tournament which is one of the things that I realize. Once I get back the backhand, it will be less physically taxing on my game.”

The statistics were spectacular for the 18 time major holder who hit 29 winners and committed only 19 unforced miscues. So the Swiss was pretty pleased with his outing. Was it really as uncomplicated as it appeared ? “It depends a little bit on your angle. I felt that I was in control and I was able to generate more chances than he did. . . Out of nowhere, I felt he got his chances, maybe because I dropped my level ever so slightly and gave him a few easy points. . .. I was more the aggressor. It was more on my racket. I like it that way”

The complexion of the match could have been altered if Del Potro had seized one of his opportunities especially in the initial set. Federer expounded “looking back, that was probably the key. I knew when he had the break point at 15-40, if I could dig my way out of that game, instead of being broken, hold and win the set, it’s a good escape. Juan Martin didn’t play his best because he did have his chances there on second serves and he could have done better, maybe played more aggressive, who knows what. But I hit some good shots to stay in there.”

The stadium was packed and the vibe was scorching like the South Florida sun. What did Federer think? “shortly before I walked out to the court you could sense the atmosphere. That’s when I told myself, just be prepared for something different. I think if the match would have gone three sets or tiebreakers or something even closer, would have been really epic. . . it was just really a great, nice atmosphere. A lot of pleasure playing him. Nice weather. Great opponent. Great crowd.”

Up to last season, Federer had a relatively injury free career. Because of his extended hiatus, his ranking suffered. Bumping into rivals prior to the quarters or semis will occur “If we’re all ranked outside of the top eight it’s going to happen more frequently naturally. That’s why Indian Wells maybe I’m to blame. I had a chance in Dubai to get into the top eight and I didn’t make it by losing in the second round. Then of course I got lucky or earned my way forward in Australia. If I would have lost early there I would’ve been outside of the top 30 and would have taken a while to get back into the top eight.”

With age come responsibility and wisdom. Consequently, foremost on Federer’s mind is “to be a bit more clever in terms of scheduling overall. Unfortunately, I can’t do it all. I can’t chase the Davis Cup and the slams and play all the Masters 1000s. At some point something has to give, unfortunately. I wish I could do it all like when I was 24 years old. . .I have to take some important decisions that work well for me as a tennis player, but then also for my family and my whole team. . .get the rest that I need, but then also play enough matches. If you don’t play enough normally you kind of lose touch of how to play break points, save break points, the shoulder gets rusty. Who knows what it is? You need the right balance. I think that’s more key than ever right now.”

At 35, is returning to number one a goal for Federer? “It’s not the priority. Health needs to be the priority. That’s why if I were to get there again I have to really win a lot of big tournaments, and I know how hard that is. I tried to do it for the last five years. So as long as I’m healthy, I feel like I can play good tennis, enjoy myself, I can beat – hopefully – some of the best players in the world, or most of them, and win tournaments as well. The rankings is very secondary.”

Most athletes come at a crossroad in their career because injury, it’s a factor in the sport. Federer states “two years ago. . . I was not 100%. At some point you just feel like in those kind of circumstances, Masters 1000s towards the end when you have to back it up day after day or play four-, five-setters every second day against the best, it’s not going to be enough at the very end. The margins are too small for anybody up there. . .very disappointing, when you realize that you’re ready to do it mentally. . .something physically is hindering you from really actually going all out. That’s how I felt. That’s why after playing like this for virtually four months, doing so much rehab and it feels like you’re having a cloud in your head all the time because you’re doing so much treatment. You hope you’re going to be better the next day. Rather than focusing on the nice weather, the nice crowd, and the good opponent you’re going to face, you’re actually hoping your knee is going to hold up. . . It’s okay to do that for a couple of weeks or for a few tournaments during the season. If you do it every single day for a month, that’s when you have to, in my opinion, take a break and rest and come back properly. That’s what I did, and I cannot believe the way it paid off actually.”

Upcoming fourth round opponent for Federer is Roberto Baustista Agut. The Spaniard dispatched Sam Querrey 3-6,6-2, 6-3. Although Federer won their five previous encounters, he knows the Spaniard is no push over “I respect Bautista Agut a lot. Was watching his match against Querrey and I really thought Querrey was playing great in the first set. I thought that at some point he was going steamroll, but that’s what Bautista Agut does so well. He competes so well point for point, day in day out, and he plays ton of tournaments, and he’s really just match tough. He may be hurt. He was taping his feet. . .I am sure he was in pain and he found a way it get it done in the end. . .I hope I can use my variation to really make him feel uncomfortable. Looking forward to backing it up tomorrow now. It’s not something I’m actually used to, playing back-to-back days. So I hope my body is going to be fine tomorrow.”

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Wozniacki Gains a Quarterfinal Berth at the Miami Open with Muguruza Retirement

Wozniacki Gains a Quarterfinal Berth at the Miami Open with Muguruza Retirement

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World number six and 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza’s quest for her maiden quarterfinal berth at the Miami Open came to abrupt end today. Subsequent to dropping the first set in a tiebreaker where she posted only one point, moreover on her opponent’s serve, the Spaniard summoned the trainer on court. Soon there was a handshake with Caroline Wozniacki and the match was over. The umpire announced that Muguruza abandoned play due to illness.

Muguruza scrapped by in her previous two matches. In her second round opener, Christina McHale was up 6-0, with a break in the second set as well as match point before the Spaniard rescued the win 0-6,7-6,6-4. The next round, Muguruza surrendered the first set against Shuai Zhang then regrouped to march to victory 4-6,6-2,6-2.

Wozniacki and Muguruza had collided on four prior occasions including in Miami in 2013. The Spaniard last defeated her rival at Wimbledon in 2015 in straight set en route to her maiden major final.

The proceedings began with exchanges of breaks. Wozniacki obtained the upper hand with a forehand return winner to get to 3-1. Then, she consolidated for a 4-1 lead. Muguruza utilized her coaching call at that point in the set which seemed effective. When she came out, she held serve and pocketed a marathon seventh game to get back on serve. Later on, with a forehand crosscourt winner, Muguruza turned the set in her favor by securing the break to go up 5-4. The Spaniard’s advantage was short-lived. Serving for the set, Muguruza was unable to keep her error count down and her streak of four consecutive games was halted. Still, the world number 6 continued to fight, overcoming a double fault gave Wozniacki break point at 5-6 to push the set into the tiebreaker.

After the match, Muguruza felt “disappointed that I could not continue after fighting so hard to get to this stage. It bothers me. [Especially} since I was playing at a good level”. She cited that when she woke up that she had a good practice suddenly around the third game she “started feeling headache, stomach pain. . . later on dizziness” which persisted the rest of the set.

This type of heat related effect is not new to the Spaniard, she says that she experienced something similar at the U.S. Open last year and at the Australian Open this year. Perhaps, according to Muguruza “tension played a factor as well”.

Would Muguruza have decided to persevere had she closed out the first set at 5-4? She replied “I was not feeling well at that point, I’m not sure, win or loose, I was thinking more about my health”. What’s up next for the French Open titlist “I will rest. I think my body is asking me to do that. I’ve been struggling with an ankle problem all season”.

Wozniacki will meet Lucie Safarova, the 2015 French Open Finalist, who has been regaining her form after being sidelined by illness for several months following her deepest run at a major. Saforova upset fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova, 7-6, 6-1 to punch her ticket into the quarters for the first time at Miami Open.

In the first match on stadium court, Karolina Pliskova handled Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-4 to secure her space in the quarterfinals. The second seed will clash with either Mirjana Lucic-Baroni or wildcard Bethanie Mattek- Sands who are both trying to reach the last eight for the first time in South Florida.

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Marvelous Monday at Miami Open Features Federer versus Del Potro as the Marquee Match

Marvelous Monday at Miami Open Features Federer versus Del Potro as the Marquee Match

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From the outset of the draw, the most anticipated potential third round encounter was Roger Federer against Juan Martin Del Potro. The fans got their wish since these two will battle it out for a fourth round berth.

Secondary to injury, Del Potro has off the tennis circuit for long stretches at a time the last four years. The last time Federer and he collided was in 2013 at the Barclays’ world tour finals. Federer holds a 15-5 record over the Argentine. As always the X-factor is the South American fans. Without question, the stadium will be sizzling which means anything can happen.

After the heights of Federer and Del Potro, John Isner clashes with youngster Alexander Zverev. The 19 year old, currently ranked 20th, won their sole prior meeting at the 2016 ATP Masters tournament in Shanghai.

For the women, the daytime’s most compelling match is Garbine Muguruza taking on former world number one Caroline Wozniacki. The 2016 French Open champion clawed her way to this stage needing three sets in both matches while Wozniacki sailed through. Muguruza has a 3-1 lead in their head to head. However, the two have not competed against each other since 2015.

Top seed Stanislas Wawrinka has the honor of opening the night session against 33 year old Tunisian veteran Malek Jaziri who is this far at Miami Open for the first time. He has a Herculean task in keeping his hopes for a fourth round spot alive as the two meet for the first time.

The night ends with two former Miami Open champions Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova duking it out for a quarterfinal spot. They’ve fought it out on court nine times previously with the Russian banking 5 wins over the American.

With the women seeking advancement to the quarterfinals, there is a plethora of interesting matches to pick from on Monday including world number one Angelique Kerber’s and second seed Karolina Pliskova’s.

Click here for for Monday’s complete order of play.

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Venus Williams and Kerber Move on to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

Venus Williams and Kerber Move on to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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Three time Miami Open champion Venus Williams took another step forward in the hope of seizing another trophy at the Miami Open. She defeated 22 year old Romanian qualifier Patricia Maria Tig 6-3, 6-0 to advance to the fourth round where she will face 2006 winner and 2016 finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian put a stop to American qualifier Taylor Townsend’s dream run with a 6-4, 6-2 triumph.

The first point of the match was a double fault by Williams. The 36 year old struggled to find the rhythm on her first serve which cost her in the third game, permitting Tig to capitalize on break point for 2-1. Undeterred, Williams broke back at love to even up the scoreboard.

Up to that point, the Romanian had been quite impressive knocking out Heather Watson of Great Britain in her maiden main draw match. Subsequently, she dismissed 2017 Indian Wells semifinalist and 18th seed Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets.

Once up 4-3, Venus seemed to find her form and by feasting on the second serve offerings by Tig. She got the second break of the set for 5-3. Later with a winner, she closed out the deal on her serve.

The 2017 Australian Open finalist and 7 time major title holder cruised through the second set pocketing six successive games to get to the next stage.

Williams did not get out of the gate as expected, “I’ve never played her, so you have to get used to patterns or rhythm. So I thought she played well. She’s got a great game. Every game was competitive. Definitely a lot of credit to her.”

As the adage goes, it’s not how one starts but finishes. Venus turned on the afterburner in the second set “no matter what, I’m going to leave everything on the court: all my guts, blood, sweat, tears. Obviously you don’t want to wait until you’re a set down to find your best game. Today I was quite happy to acclimate quicker.”

On court coaching has been an aspect of the sport that Venus has hardly utilized, she likes to earn her victories the old fashion way “I hadn’t thought a ton about it. From my understanding, on-court coaching was supposed to be a selling point to build the game and get more interest . . . If it’s doing that, then it’s a plus. We want the game to grow and people to watch because it’s exciting. I don’t necessarily have an opinion. If it’s helping the game, I’m like down. I’m good.”

Regarding her next challenge, Kuznetsova who holds a 5-4 lead in their head to head, Venus made these comments pre match ” We’ve had a lot of great matches. I played her in the very beginning of her career and now we both have had great careers that are continuing to be amazing. I know her game. I don’t think there will be any surprises. She knows mine. I just want to continue to control the court. That’s what I’ll try to do.”

Earlier in the day, world number one and top seed Angelique Kerber had to work to obtain a 6-4, 7-5 win over American Shelby Rogers. In the first set, the top seed fell behind 3-0. However, she went on a five game streak to move ahead 5-4. Soon, with Rogers committing her 21st miscue, Kerber had triple set point which she banked as the American misfired again.

In the second set, with Rogers’ backhand winner clipping the line, Kerber faced triple break point. As the 2 time major champion dumped a forehand into the net, Rogers secured a 4-2 edge. But her joy lasted only a few minutes. The very next game she surrendered the advantage due to a litany of mistakes. In the eleventh game, Kerber allowed her opponent to press while she stayed consistent with her stroke. That strategy banked her the break for 6-5. With a swift hold, she punched her ticket into the round of 16.

Next up for the German will be 23 year old Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki who upset 16th seed Kiki Bertens in the second round, then booted Julia Goerges ranked 47th.

Madison Keyes’ comeback from left wrist surgery is still a work in progress. Today the world number 9 was send packing by Lara Arruabarrena, ranked 72nd, 7-5, 7-5.

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Federer Pushed but Unfazed to Earn a Third Round Spot at the Miami Open

Federer Pushed but Unfazed to Earn a Third Round Spot at the Miami Open

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The customary sentiment when one is 19 years old and sees a living legend across the net as the opponent is panic. By the time, the realization has set that it is an actual competition, the score line usually reads something like 0-6 with the first set evaporating in less than half an hour. Frances Tiafoe may be young, but he demonstrated a maturity today that will serve him well in the future as he faced the 18 time majors champion, Roger Federer. Although the Swiss master penned another in the win column, he was tested by the teenager in his 7-6, 6-3 victory in the second round at the Miami Open.

Ranked 101, Tiafoe worked his way into the main draw by qualifying. Then, he prevailed in the first round to earn his date with the reigning Australian Open champion. In the opening game, the American gave a nice account of himself, not getting frazzled after a 40-love lead dwindled to 40-30. With a nice backhand down the line winner, Tiafoe kept the proceeding on serve at 2-1.

As the competitors waited in the tunnel for their names to be announced, Federer was jovial and relaxed, chatting with the kid tasked with carrying his bag on court. To the contrary, Tiafoe had his racket bag on his back, concentrating intently not to let nerves creep up, not glancing long at his opponent. As he once mentioned Federer is “too smooth to emulate. He makes it look too easy. He is everybody’s idol.”

Federer kept his cool in the eight and tenth games, serving consecutive love games to put the set on an even footing twice. Later, it was Tiafoe’s turn to get comfortably to 6-5. When the former world number one saw a breathtaking backhand winner whiz for 0-15, he did not blink. Ultimately, Federer pushed the set into a tiebreaker with an ace. From that point on, Federer’s experience shone. Subsequent to securing the first point and mini-break with a volley winner, Federer cruised to capture the set.

After surrendering the first set with a bevy of unforced errors, Tiafoe rebounded by seizing the first break chance in the match to start the second set. However, his joy was ephemeral as Federer created two chances of his own and shortly leveled the set. Another testy moment in the contest was the fourth game. With three miscues, Tiafoe dug himself a 0-40 hole. The youngster shoveled himself out to reach 2 all. Yet, soon his next time serving the American stared at 15-40, Federer applied the accelerator to grab the break. The Swiss promptly sealed a love game with an ace to consolidate and move ahead 5-2. Still, for Tiafoe, there was no let down as he held serve and forced Federer to earn the win. The world number six did so with an easy service game.

Following the match, Federer reflected “I’ve hit with Frances maybe twice before: Once at the French and once at the US Open. There he surprised me . . .I saw the power he had, the explosivity he had, how he easily can generate pace. So I think he’s going to be really good, like most of the NextGen campaign . . . they’re pushing each other up right now. They have a good dynamic. They are quite friendly also with one another yet they have good rivalry.” He also praised the youngster for not letting the moment overwhelm him “I think the question was always how was he going to come out. It’s the question for any player. Also for me. How can you start a match? [He] seemed to be fearless, no problem, good serving, taking the ball early, making the plays. And that I like to see”

Hard to phantom, but at 35, Federer still gets jittery at the start of an event “even though I was pretty relaxed before the match . . .Yesterday I got these flashes of, Ooh, it’s going to be exciting. Then you walk out on court and there is always a big roar here in Miami . . it’s nice to get it over and done with on the winning side. You feel quite relieved to some extent because you know it can be dangerous. I don’t know his patterns well, or at all. I was actually playing very well. He stayed with me for very long time. That can make you nervous if maybe I wouldn’t have been so confident.”

With possibly, 14,000 sets of eyes watching, this is the biggest stage that Tiafoe has been on up to now. When Federer deferred and asked him to serve, admittedly, it amped up his anxiety level. “At first, I think he was feeling my game, didn’t know what to expect I think”.

When asked what is the primary lesson to take from this encounter, Tiafoe cited that he is encouraged by the way he played and that the goal will be to work hard on his game so that the next time he encounters such a big name it won’t be as early in the tournament. What does he feel he could improve “my return game”. Since the American pinpointed at least one aspect of his game which requires improvement, that alone is progress.

As Federer emphasized “I hope he’s going to learn a lot from a match like this just because playing on a center court with a lot of people, under pressure, saving break points, making break points, playing breakers. That’s what it’s about, and it should feed a player like him with a lot of energy moving forward hopefully. . .we both played very well and both can maybe walk away from this match quite happy, which is not often in tennis that that’s maybe the case.”

Looking to the third round, Federer could collide with Juan Martin Del Potro “I would love to play against him. I’m happy for him with his comeback, winning at Davis Cup. . .I should have played him here last year but I was sick. It’s better to play him this time around when we’re both better. . . We’ve had some epic matches against each other: Semis at the French, Olympic semis, finals at the US Open.” But as the great one himself pointed out “I’m sure the crowd would love to see it. Robin Haase is going to have a say about that, as we know.”

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