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Fish to Make ATP Champions Tour Debut at Delray Beach Open

Fish to Make ATP Champions Tour Debut at Delray Beach Open

IMG_9290_Fish Marty Fish, the 2009 Delray Beach Open champion, will make his debut on the ATP Champions Tour when the tournament kicks off on February 12, 2016. Fish will be joined by former ATP Tour players that will include James Blake, Mark Philippoussis, Sebastien Grosjean, Greg Rusedski and Aaron Krickstein.

The ATP Champions tour is held the first weekend of the Delray Beach Open which serves as the ATP World Tour’s first North American hard court event.

Here is the official press release from the tournament :

DELRAY BEACH: Former world No. 7 Mardy Fish will make his ATP Champions Tour debut at the 2016 Delray Beach Open, returning to the event where he continues to be the only ATP World Tour champion in tournament history to win as the top-seed – a feat he accomplished in 2009.

Additionally, former Davis Cup teammate and world No. 4 James Blake will join Fish in the ATP Champions Tour field that was announced today by the tournament. Four of the six players who will play in the event have ties to the area, including Fish, a former Vero Beach resident.

The three-day, six-player round-robin tournament is played the first weekend of the 10-day Delray Beach Open and includes an American team competing against an International trio. The action begins Friday, Feb. 12 with a pair of night matches, followed by four matches over Saturday day and night, and three Sunday afternoon matches that could decide the team title.

Joining Blake and Fish on Team USA is current Boca resident Aaron Krickstein while Team International includes former Delray Beach resident Mark Philippoussis (AUS), longtime Boca Raton resident Sebastien Grosjean (FRA), and Greg Rusedski (GBR).

The tournament is also announcing its annual Holiday Promotion, which discounts individual box and reserved tickets for all ATP Champions Tour matches (Sessions 1-4, 50% off) and ATP World Tour matches (Sessions 5-17, 20% off). The promotion begins Nov. 26 and runs through Dec. 31.

Fish, who last played in Delray Beach in 2011, missed most of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 ATP World Tour seasons as he battled a heart ailment and anxiety issues that he has since openly discussed in efforts to help others who battle the disorder. He played in several ATP World Tour events in 2015 before announcing his retirement prior to the US Open, where his career ended in a stirring five-set defeat in the second round. Over his career, Fish won six ATP titles and reached the quarterfinals of three Grand Slam tournaments.

Fish went 19-7 in eight Delray Beach appearances, and in addition to his ’09 title, reached the final in 2003 and semifinals in 2009 and 2001. Blake, a two-time ATP World Tour Delray Beach finalist (2007 & 2008), made his debut on the ATP Champions Tour in Delray Beach a year ago. Like Fish, he reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals during his ATP World Tour career and was runner-up to Roger Federer in the season-ending 2006 ATP World Tour Championships.

Two-time Grand Slam runner-up Philippoussis will be playing in his third ATP Champions Tour event in Delray Beach – he won the 2011 title when the tournament crowned an individual champion. A 1997 US Open finalist, Rusedski was 6-2 in Delray Beach as an ATP pro and reached the event’s 1995 final while four-time Grand Slam semifinalist Grosjean was 5-3 in Delray Beach and played in a 1999 semifinal. Rusedski and Grosjean are making their first Delray Beach ATP Champions Tour appearances.

The Delray Beach Open also announced a new ‘no-ad’ format for all ATP Champions Tour matches – at deuce, the player returning serve picks the side he wants to return from; the winner of that point wins the game. A traditional 7-point tiebreaker will continue to be played at six games apiece and a match tiebreak (10-point) will continue to decide a match when players split the first two sets.

Sunday’s 12:30 pm match on Court 1 will be of local interest because it creates a “country club rivalry” between Krickstein and Grosjean, who never played each other on the ATP World Tour. Krickstein is the longtime head pro at St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton while Grosjean is a resident of Woodfield Country Club, also in Boca. Grosjean currently coaches Top 10 Richard Gasquet.

In addition to their ATP Champions Tour play, Blake and Philippoussis have been given a wild card to partner in doubles in the ATP World Tour event.

Discounted ticket are available at with prices starting at $14.50. Fans can also visit the on-site box office at 30 NW 1st Avenue in Delray Beach, or call 561-330-6000.

For more information: Go to

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Grigor Dimitrov to Play 2016 Delray Beach Open

Grigor Dimitrov to Play 2016 Delray Beach Open

Tennis - 2015 ATP World Tour 1000 - Miami Open - Key Biscayne, USA - Day 6 - Saturday 28 March 2015Former ATP World Tour No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov has been added to the Delray Beach Open that will be played February 12 – 21, 2016. Dimitrov joins fellow ATP players Milos Raonic and Tommy Haas as the ATP kicks off the first North American hard court event of 2016.

Below is the official tournament press release.

DELRAY BEACH: ATP World Tour star Grigor Dimitrov has joined the 32-player field for the 2016 Delray Beach Open, while 2006 champion Tommy Haas has added Delray Beach to his 2016 return tour.

The tournament previously announced that world No. 9 Milos Raonic of Canada and the longtime world top-ranked American doubles duo, the Bryan Brothers, have committed to play in Delray Beach’s ATP World tour event next February.

In its 18th year in the city and 24th overall, the Delray Beach Open will be played February 12-21, 2016 at the Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center.

Dimitrov, 24, reached a No. 8 world ranking in 2014 thanks to a pair of semifinal finishes in Rome and Toronto, and a win over world No. 4 Andy Murray that propelled him to the Wimbledon semifinal. The Bulgarian, who famously dated Maria Sharapova for two years, has already won four ATP titles and has 10 career wins over Top 10 players.

The 37-year-old Haas has returned to the Top 20 from major surgery three times in his career, and is embarking on a fourth run after shoulder surgery last year. Twice Haas has been named the ATP’s “Comeback Player of the Year” and his 15 ATP World Tour titles and more than 550 career wins have him surpassing the $13 million earnings mark for his 20-year career.

Haas reached a career-high No. 2 ranking in 2002 shortly after reaching the Australian Open semifinal, and he won the Delray Beach tournament in his first appearance in 2006. He owns an 11-7 record in eight Delray appearances.

“We are thrilled to continue adding top talent to our 2016 field,” said tournament director Mark Baron. “Grigor is an exciting young player who we have wanted to have in Delray Beach for some time. And having a healthy Tommy competing again will be a treat for our fans. We continue to be amazed at the level of play he has brought to the courts for the last two decades.”

The Delray Beach Open also announced that its ATP World Tour qualifying event will consist of a 16-player field instead of the 32-player draw that has been customary since the event’s inception. All ATP 250-level tournaments are making the adjustment.

The 10-day Delray Beach Open also includes an ATP Champions Tour event, which brings legends of the game into town to play during the opening weekend.

A number of tournament seating packages are on sale, including the Reserved Diamond Series that includes tickets to all 17 sessions of the ATP Champions Tour and ATP World Tour events (Friday, Feb. 12 – Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016) for $500. Reserved seats (sections A – O) are located just behind the box seats and have back support and arm rests. The popular Weekender Series that includes a reserved seat for the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals (sessions 13-17) is $200.

Other 17-session ticket packages include the courtside box series packages ($1,500 for two seats or $2,500 for four), the on-court Best Seats in the House package priced at $3,000 for two seats, or $4,500 for four and the covered Veranda seats. The Veranda seats are also available for individual sessions.

The event’s new Sky Suites and Sky Boxes start at $7,000 for all 17 sessions. They accommodate 8 to 24 people and include food and beverage options.

Fans can order tickets online at, visit the on-site box office at 30 NW 1st Avenue in Delray Beach, or call 561-330-6000.

For more information: Go to

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Djokovic Withstands Murray for A Fifth Miami Open Trophy

Djokovic Withstands Murray for A Fifth Miami Open Trophy

IMG_8889_DjokovicThe 30th edition of the men’s final at the Miami Open was contested between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Yet again, Djokovic outlasted Murray 7-6, 4-6, 6-0 to bank his fifth title in South Florida.

In January at the Australian Open final, Djokovic manhandled his counterpart 6-0 in the fourth set to claim the trophy. The second Masters 1000 of the year was a chance for Murray to apply the brakes on a seven match skid against Djokovic against, he had an 8-17 record. Moreover, since his triumph in the 2013 Wimbledon final, Murray is 0-11 versus the combination of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

With a forehand crosscourt winner, Murray manufactured a break point in the opening game. Although Djokovic held, for the Brit, this was a positive development. The next time Murray had break point, he struck an overhead winner for a 2-1 lead.

But, Murray’s advantage was short-lived. The Brit failed to consolidate ahead 40-30. As Djokovic misfired on three backhands in the seventh game, Murray broke at love for 4-3. Swiftly, it was Djokovic’s turn at triple break point and he leveled the set. With no further break points on offer, the opening set was decided by a tiebreaker.

Murray‘s caution at this juncture resulted in miscues. Courtesy of that generosity, Djokovic stormed to a 4-0 edge and ultimately with ease secured the first set.

In the third game of the second set, Djokovic had opportunities to tighten the rope around Murray’s neck with four break points. However, by serving well, the Brit recovered and kept the score in his favor for 2-1.

With the score 4 all and 40-30, Murray was given a time violation warning. This could have derailed him. Yet, the two time Miami Open champion overcame that distraction to hold for 5-4.

Soon, Murray blazed a forehand crosscourt winner off an overhead from Djokovic for 0-40. Then, with the Brit crushing a second serve backhand return crosscourt for a winner, a decisive set was needed to determine the victor.

The bipartisan crowd could hardly contain its glee as cries of “come on Nole or come on Murray” reverberated throughout the stadium. The public was salivating at the prospect of these two warriors dueling to the death.

The last couple of years, Djokovic has mastered the art of wrestling momentum away from his rivals. Once again, Murray learned there was no mercy for miscues.

In an opening game where Murray had game point, Djokovic capitalized on his opponent‘s sleuth of errors to come away with the break. After the Serb consolidated for 2-0, Murray double faulted to stare at 0-40. Despite getting to deuce, Murray could not overcome three more break points. Hard to phantom, but in a 48 minute set, Murray failed to post a single game.

Although the forecast was 75 and partly cloudy, it felt closer to 90 on the court. According to Murray, “I struggled physically, I played well for a couple of sets. I wasn’t getting in the right positions to hit the ball in the last set”.

Djokovic agreed “brutal conditions for both of us. First set was really up and down. We tried to stay mentally tough, hang in there, battle and wear down the other player physically. There were lots of long rallies. I was expecting that coming into the match. It wasn’t really great tennis, a lot of unforced errors. But in these conditions you just want to extend the punching exchange and wait for the opportunities.”

Despite residing and training part of the year in South Florida , Murray could not find his legs to make that last push “here more than most places, it’s draining because of the humidity. . .Part of being a professional athlete is dealing with those different conditions and making adjustments.”

Murray doesn’t attribute his flaming out to his past medical issues “I’ve trained as hard as I can. Maybe I could have hydrated a little bit better. He was stronger than me at the end.”

At one end of the court, in the opening set, the sun was a factor which perhaps killed Murray‘s chances “I would say until the end of the first set, it wasn’t an advantage serving… It’s one thing hitting the first serve significantly slower, but looking at bright light, the first shot of the rally when it comes back, your site is a bit off.”

Despite the outcome, Murray believes there are encouraging lessons to take away compared to Indian Wells “I made the match harder for him, I did many things better. I was going for my shots a bit more. I played a good match tactically.”

Djokovic has dominated his rival of late. Still, he expressed “I’m aware of his qualities and the tennis he can play, the shots, the talent he possesses. He’s also a multiple Grand Slam winner and knows how to perform on the big stage. He deserves respect and to be in the finals of big events. We play similar styles of game so we push each other. It’s like playing cat and mouse trying to outplay and outsmart him in certain types of point.”

Consequently, Djokovic is a tough puzzle for Murray to crack because he is an enhanced prototype. As Murray put it “he serves well, he moves exceptionally well. He’s in great shape and he hits the ball well off both sides. That’s why he’s the number one player in the world. In a couple of matches we’ve played this year, I felt like I’ve been able to hang with him, but not quite for long enough unfortunately.”

As far as his recent successes, the world number one expressed “I could not ask for a better start to the season winning three big titles. I’m probably playing the tennis of my life, feeling confident and physically fit. Hopefully, I’m able to use this for the clay court coming up. I’m aware that this cannot go on forever. I’m going to try to stay as long as I can on top and fight for the biggest titles”

At 27, both players have had triumphant careers. But, with his win at the Australian Open, Djokovic became the first player since 1968 to collect five prizes Down Under. Today, with his 22nd masters shield, he accomplished for a third time the Indian Wells-Miami Open double, something that had never been done. Moreover, Djokovic is one Masters 1000 title away from tying Federer in the number two spot.

On the historical perspective, Djokovic commented “it’s nice and flattering to hear that I have achieved another record. Any achievement that goes into the history books I’m hugely proud of and appreciate because I work hard for it and I do cherish it. It allows me to motivate myself even more.” Next year, at the Miami Open, the bar for Djokovic will be equalizing Andre Agassi’s record with a sixth title.

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Serena Williams Seizes Her Eighth Miami Open Title

Serena Williams Seizes Her Eighth Miami Open Title

IMG_9003_SerenaBy choosing South Florida as her base and lifting the trophy on seven prior occasions, the Miami Open is Serena Williams’ home. Consequently, this afternoon, first time finalist Carla Suarez Navarro needed to play the match of her career to steal the title from the two time defending champion. Williams romped Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-0 for a third successive Miami Open trophy, her eighth overall.

After coasting through the early stages, Serena averted close calls in the quarterfinals and semifinals. First, Williams fought off Sabine Lisicki 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, the player who ended her bid as defending champion for a sixth Wimbledon prize in 2013.

Next up, the world number one clashed with Simona Halep, the 2015 titlist at Indian Wells. Ironically, the Romanian received a walkover into the final from Williams at that event because of an inflamed knee. A match fit Serena battled herself, her opponent and the Romanian partisans but eventually prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

The opening game was a glimpse of how the proceedings would unfold as Serena held at love. For a short time, Suarez Navarro managed to keep up and in the fifth game was at 30-30. However, with two aces, Serena moved ahead 3-2.

After the Spaniard dismissed double break point, Serena provoked a few errors and capitalized on her third break point. The American easily consolidated for 5-2. With another break, 17 winners, 8 unforced errors and in just 32 minutes, Williams secured the set.

Prior to the second set, Suarez Navarro conferred with her coach. His advice was to “change the rhythm, serve better, get the shots deeper”. Consequently, the first game of the second set, the Spaniard arrived at break point. But, with an ace, Serena dismissed the sole break point she stared at the entire match. Swiftly, Suarez Navarro surrendered the next game. The Spaniard won only two more points in the remainder of the match.

Suarez Navarro has yet to capture a set from the world number one in their five meetings. Moreover, this was Serena‘s fifth love set.

There were mixed feelings for Suarez Navarro after she shocked Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, then dispatched world number nine Andrea Petkovic to advance to the biggest final of her career, at one of only four mandatory premier tournaments.

The 26 year old expressed “ I came into the final with the firm belief that she could win.. . It was difficult to compete with her, I tried to be solid, however, with her strength it proved to be impossible.”

Still, Suarez Navarro affirms that “Serena is not unbeatable, she has more experience and success. People are aware that she beatable. But you have to play at a high level. My plan is keep believing and to work hard.”

Despite the score, Suarez Navarro attested that “ I enjoyed the tournament. it’s worth the pain, I fought till the end, you learn from these moments”. For her efforts, when the rankings are released, Suarez Navarro will be rewarded with the number 10 spot. Furthermore, she is the first Spanish female in the top ten since Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Every time Serena step on the court, she climbs a new benchmark. This week, she joined the exclusive 700 wins club, only the eighth female player to reach that mark.

In 2013, she surpassed Steffi Graf‘s all time record of five trophies at the Miami Open. Following her tenth final at the Miami Open, with losses only to Venus in 1999 and Victoria Azarenka in 2009, Serena cited “it feels really good to have eight under my belt. Can’t say I thought I would win, especially at the beginning of the week. . .each one is special. Some finals are long; some finals have been shorter. At the end, each one is a lot of hard work. ”

Yet, Williams’ celebration was muted “I was so focused out there today. When you’re winning 5-Love, 40-Love, it’s not a surprise. . .you’ve kind of accepted that you’re going to win . . . It’s different if it’s 5-All or 7-5. You don’t know which way it’s going to turn.”

Serena is only the fourth WTA competitors to bank the same title at least eight times. Will she be aiming for twelve at the Miami Open? Martina Navratilova won Chicago that many times “I hope not. Because I would still be here  I would be how old? Let’s pray that I don’t get to 12.”

With her 66th career prize, Serena is one title away from knotting Billie Jean King at number six on the roll call. Serena’s goal for the clay season “ I just want to stay consistent and get a little more fit. . . you have longer matches. I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking to have fun.”

By collecting her 19th major at the Australian Open, Serena is for the sixth time in a position to pull off the calendar grand slam. Furthermore, Jennifer Capriati was the last person to hold both the French and Australian in 2001 “I don’t know if I can do it. I’ve never done it. . .I don’t think it’s necessarily tough. I just think that sometimes the tournament’s hard and you fall at the wrong time.”

For now, Serena will relish her recent triumph in Miami. Who knows one day instead of stadium court, it will be Serena Williams Stadium.

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Murray Tops Berdych to Advance to Miami Open Final

Murray Tops Berdych to Advance to Miami Open Final

Tennis - 2015 ATP World Tour 1000 - Miami Open - Key Biscayne, USA - Day 7 - Sunday 29 March 2015Two-time Miami Open champion Andy Murray has advanced to his fourth Miami Open final.

The third seed took out Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-4 to book a spot in Sunday’s finals. Murray will face the winner of the second semifinal match between 2014 Miami Open defending champion Novak Djokovic and John Isner. Murray last claimed the Miami title in 2013.

“I felt like I served well,” Murray said after the match. “It was tricky from one end of the court. We’re basically serving right into the sun at that time of day, so I had to take a little bit off the serve. On the second serve it was very tough to see.”

With regard to his previous matches against Berdych, Murray commented “I’ve played him on the clay obviously I found it tricky against him. We played a couple times when the conditions have been extremely heavy. He’s a big, big guy. When the conditions are like that, he can still generate a lot of force, a lot of power. But, you know, when I’ve played him on some of the quicker surfaces, I feel like I’ve been able to hit through the court and make him move a lot.”

Early in the tournament Murray claimed his 500 career match win when he bounced Kevin Anderson in the fourth round.

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Djokovic and Nishikori March on to the Round of 16 at the Miami Open

Djokovic and Nishikori March on to the Round of 16 at the Miami Open

Djokoivc_MO_RFIn search of his third double-double, the combination of Indian Wells and Miami Open trophies, Novak Djokovic took another step forward today in beating Steve Darcis 6-0, 7-5 to move into the round of 16.

There is not much to discuss about an opening set, where the world number one posted a bagel against his peer. After Djokovic seized seven successive games, Darcis at last made his presence felt in the second set.

The 31 year old qualifier, in his maiden third round at the Miami Open, overcame three break points before holding serve for 2 all. As Djokovic continued to push, Darcis again was made to work to level the score in the sixth game.

The possibility of a third set became imminent as the Belge broke for 5-4 and had the opportunity to steal a set. However, the four time champion was in no mood for a decisive set. Djokovic took the next three games to dash any of his rival’s hopes.

Djokovic acknowledged that the second set was a tad hairy “the drop of the intensity and the fact that I didn’t use the opportunities early [on] resulted in a close second set. He’s got a lot of variety, especially from the backhand side, he slices pretty well. I was handling it really good, then started to make some unforced errors, complicated my own life. But at the end of the day, it’s a win.”

All players go through periods of self doubt as Rafael Nadal confessed when he loss to Fernando Verdasco. Djokovic admits that he is not the exception “more or less every single match you go through these moments. We are all humans and go through emotional ups and downs depending on the quality and intensity of the match. I understand what [Nadal] is talking about because I’m playing for many years at this high level and I know [the] pressure and expectations [that go along]. It’s normal to have periods of crisis, feel more doubt than confidence in important moments and you lose a couple of matches. I’m sure Nadal is somebody who knows exactly how to deal with this particular situation and how to get better.”

Next, Djokovic takes on Alexandr Dolgopolov. A quarterfinalist in 2014, the Ukranian defeated Thomaz Bellucci in straight sets.

Looking ahead, Djokovic cited “he’s feeling good. He likes this surface, a bit slower court with higher bounce. He has a very quick dynamic motion on the serve and can serve very big for somebody of his height. I know what to expect. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start as well as I did in the first two matches, but end it in a bit different way.”

In the opening match of the grandstand, Kei Nishikori needed only 63 minutes to send off Viktor Troicki 6-2, 6-2. Also in action was Spaniard David Ferrer. The 2013 finalist took care of Lukas Rosol 6-4, 7-5 and will duke it out with Gilles Simon for a berth in the quarterfinals. Milos Raonic outlasted Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 5-7, 7-6. Raonic will find John Isner across the net. The American ousted Grigor Dimitrov the ninth seed with a 7-6, 6-2 triumph.

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Venus Williams Proceeds to the Quarterfinals at the Miami Open

Venus Williams Proceeds to the Quarterfinals at the Miami Open

IMG_6949_VenusSeven time major winner Venus Williams ushered out world number four Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 7-6 in the round of 16 at the Miami Open to punch her ticket into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2012.

The players could not maintain serve until the sixth game when Williams held for 4-3. Subsequent to a couple of long games, Wozniacki once again faltered. Venus broke to wrap up the opening set.

In the second set, Wozniacki threw the gauntlet with a break for 3-2. Although Williams found the equalizer promptly, as the serve deserted her, she was broken once more. In spite of difficulties, Wozniacki consolidated for 5-4. With the Dane serving for the set, Williams crushed a forehand up the line for triple break point. Soon, score was knotted at 5 a piece.

But, ahead 40-0, Williams had three consecutive double faults and eventually gifted another opportunity to her rival to push the match to a third set. Quickly, the American bounced back with triple break point and capitalized to bring up a tiebreaker.

With a nearly pristine performance, Williams claimed the tiebreaker 7-1. The American preserves her spotless record against Wozniacki and is now 7-0.

At age 34, no hint that she is contemplating retirement. Williams still has a passion for her profession “tennis has always been a blast…I never get bored. Tennis is not pushing paper. When you get out there you have no idea what’s going to happen. You can try to plan it the best you can, but it’s up in the air. You have to improvise every single time. You have to be very focused and disciplined. It’s all worth it when you get to the tournament, that excitement level comes up and I love it.”

Williams seized her 46th career title earlier in the year by also defeating Wozniacki in Auckland. Moreover, she advanced to the quarterfinals at a major for the first time since 2010. It’s been a long journey after her diagnosis of Sjogren syndrome “definitely a road not traveled. There is no handbook that says how to handle yourself. I’m persistent. I don’t give up and I believe in myself no matter what the odds are. I have always seen it as something to overcome and not something that could stop me.”

Williams made her debut at the Miami Open in 1997 and went on to land the title the following year, the biggest of her burgeoning career up to that point “Miami was my first big win besides the Australian Open mixed that year. So 1998 was definitely a great year. I learned a lot. Today, I played similar to young V, either knocking a winner or an error. It feels good.”

Williams had 40 winners today. With time, her game has changed “1997 I was a girl without a plan. Go out and swing. There’s a certain freedom to that, but there is also costly mistakes. At this stage, it’s about finding that happy medium, playing the percentage, being smart, using your experience, but at the same time continuing to be aggressive.”

With her appearance this season, Serena ended her boycott of Indian Wells. Is Venus far behind? “what Serena did was just awesome for me to see as a big sister. In this instance she took the role of big sister. We continue to protect each other no matter what. Next year is an Olympic year, it would be awesome to return, but I don’t know my schedule.”

Williams will clash with Carla Suarez Navarro in the subsequent match. The Spaniard stunned 2012 champion and world number eight Agnieszka Radwanska 5-7, 6-0, 6-4 to book her first quarterfinal appearance in Miami. Unlike today’s opponent, Suarez Navarro has 2-2 record against the American. Williams knows the match will be a battle “she plays a good mix of defense and offense. I just have to go out there and try to make my shot and use my power. Go for it.”

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Verdasco Scuttles Nadal at the Miami Open

Verdasco Scuttles Nadal at the Miami Open

IMG_0939_NadalRafael Nadal’s bid for a Miami Open trophy was halted by compatriot Fernando Verdasco today. The former world number seven stunned the second seed 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to claim a slot in the fourth round.

Ironically, Verdasco’s ultimate victory over a top three opponents was over Nadal at the Madrid Masters in 2012. In fact, it represented his first win over his countryman in fourteen attempts. A two time quarterfinalist in Miami, currently ranked 34th, Verdasco entered this event with a 8-6 record.

After letting his chance evaporate at 5-3 to seal the initial set, Verdasco broke Nadal for the second straight game to get the job done.

In the second set, Nadal broke and consolidated for a 4-2 edge. With a second break to carry the set, momentum seemed to have shifted to Nadal’s corner.

Considering the past, it would have been expected normal for doubts to creep into Verdasco’s psyche. Instead, the 2009 Australian Open semifinalist stayed hopeful in the deciding set. After dismissing a couple of break points, with a spectacular inside out crosscourt forehand winner, Verdasco converted on his break point opportunity then pushed his lead to 4-1.

After he failed on his maiden match point in the eighth game, it appears that Verdasco could crumble. Instead, it was the mental stalwart Nadal who misfired on a return at match point number to push his compatriot into the next round.

Nadal summed up what went wrong “I played some good games at the beginning; some good games on the second; not bad at the beginning of the third. But he played well the third, so he deserved to win more than me.”

According to Nadal, his issues go beyond just this match “It’s not the question of tennis. [it’s a] question of being relaxed enough to play well on court. My game in general improved from a month and a half. But at the same time, [I’m] still playing with too much nerves in important moments. Something that didn’t happen a lot during my career. I have been able to control my emotions during, 90%, 95% of my matches of my career, something that today is tougher. But I gonna fix it. I don’t know if in one week, in six months, or in one year, but I gonna do it.”

The world number three is adamant that his “nerve” difficulty is not the result of last year’s medical challenges “the physical problems are past. [I’m] feeling much more comfortable in my tennis, practicing well. But still playing on competition feeling more tired than usual, feeling that I don’t have self-confidence that when I hit the ball, I’m gonna hit the ball where I want to hit the ball. All these are small things that are difficult to explain.”

Hard to picture Nadal as a player struggling with nerves and self-control. Yet, he emphasizes although he has experienced it before but “very small for one point, two points. I’m able to say. Okay, I am here. But now, 3 all break point, more or less easy forehand. That was a very important point for me, but shouldn’t be. I lost that point and then affects the next game. I had the break back, 30-love, I miss a forehand, that created doubts again. I have been able to change a lot of negative situations in my career, I am confident that I can do it. I don’t know if I gonna do it, but I hope I can.”

Nadal is not a believer in couch therapy “tennis is not a big deal. Outside of the tennis world when you have some problems in your life, it is good help that you visit a professional who can improve your quality of life. [Tennis] is sport, is game. It is something I need to fix for myself and with my team. Hopefully, the clay helps.”

For his part, Verdasco never doubted even when forced to a decisive set “I was trying to think about how I played the first set and tried to get back that feeling. I tried to keep calm and be aggressive. At same time, cannot be very aggressive, very windy and many times you need to adjust.”

Undisputedly, a colossal win “beating a player like Rafa is the same like you beat [Andy] Murray or [Roger] Federer. It’s always a nice to feel a huge victory in a packed stadium in a very important tournament. Today was a good day. Now I need to try to rest and be ready for the next one.”

With reference to sensing a ‘less confident’, Verdasco replied “we played each other many times and everything happened. Since last time I beat him in Madrid, it was 13 times in a row for him. Some very easy some of them for me having match points. Every match is different. Today I adapted better than him. Normally, he is one of the best with this kind of wind. I’m not inside of him, so he is the one who needs to say about his feelings, not me. What I saw is that he was missing more than normal.”

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Serena Schools Bellis to Get to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

Serena Schools Bellis to Get to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

IMG_8162_Serena_BWAfter her second round win, Catherine Bellis was asked how she would approach an encounter with Serena Williams “it’s going to be really fun. I’m just going to play my game and see what happens. . .it’s just another opponent”. The 15 year old got the memo today that Williams is not ‘just another opponent’. The world number one required only 41 minutes to crush the youngster 6-1, 6-1 and stay on track for her eighth Miami Open title.

The 19 time major winner said in reference to her teenage counterpart “If you break down her age, her ability, how well she handled the moment and how well she played, I think it was good.. It wasn’t like, Oh, I’m so happy to win this match. . .it was tough. . .she’s young and her being an American, you want to see people like her do well. So when you’re up against them you have to kind of put that aside. Even though I’m always cheering for her.”

Williams was sympathetic toward her competitor “I never played that well at 15 to play the professionals, I was at school. I wasn’t good enough. . I turned pro at 15 and lost 1-1 to Anne Miller . . .I didn’t play for another two years. So, yeah, I think she’s doing really well.”

Bubbly and smiling after the match, Bellis reflected “I was pretty nervous, she’s number one in the world and the best of all time for a reason. It was just a really good experience for the future. . . I have never played her before, never seen her in person, just on TV, she’s my idol. . .the stadium is huge. I like that kind of stuff, it was fun. . .She definitely hits really hard. . .[this match] was an eye opener for sure>”

In the fourth round, Williams collides with Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian hung on against Angelique Kerber to win in three sets.

World number three and 2014 French Open finalist Simona Halep kept her dream of a back to back premier event trophy alive with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Camila Giorgi.

This grandstand match was a roller coaster ride. At two all in the initial set, the Italian committed three double faults on three of four points in the fifth game to gift Halep the break. Although Giorgi quickly reestablished parity, a sleuth of miscues in the ninth game resulted in another break which was the difference in that set.

In the second set, Halep and Giorgi traded multiple breaks. At 5-4, Halep served for the match and could not shut the door. Subsequent, to benefiting from a seventh break courtesy of various mistakes by Giorgi including an 11th double fault, on her second try, Halep got the win.

Following her first meeting with Giorgi who shocked Maria Sharapova last year at Indian Wells, Halep commented “it was a strange match because she hits very strong and very fast. . .I didn’t have time sometimes to adapt. . .But I just tried to move my legs more and just to be aggressive. . .I’m happy that I could win. She’s a tough opponent.”

Halep hoisted the most prestigious trophy of her career last week at Indian Wells. Today, the Romanian got her maiden fourth round berth at the Miami Open “I like to play here. . .I come from Indian Wells . . .and I have more confidence. I’m just trying to keep my mind very focused and to recover my body every day. . .I feel a little bit tired, but it’s normal. . .I’m just looking forward to improve more in my shots, and I just want to hit the serve better and better day by day.”

Halep’s fan club is growing daily. Despite Giorgi’s Argentinian connection, her parents are from there, the Romanian loyalists were the most vocal “everywhere I go I have many Romanians supporting me. I can say it’s amazing . . .I can hear my name on court. So it’s really nice. . .gives me more power to fight.”

On stadium court, Victoria Azarenka faced 2014 Indian Wells champion Flavia Pennetta. In the seventh game, with some bold play, Pennetta salvaged two break points to push ahead 4-3. Later, by smoking a forehand crosscourt pass by the Belarusian on triple break point, Pennetta was at 5-3. However, serving for the set, Pennetta faltered. The set’s owner was decided by a tiebreaker. The Italian capitalized on her third mini-break to pocket the set.

The second set was almost a mirror image to the prior. Pennetta banked on triple break point in the seventh game for 4-3. Still, Azarenka managed to recover and get to a tiebreaker. But, it would not be the two time champion’s day as a composed Pennetta went on to prevail.

In the next round, Halep collides with Pennetta. Eighteen year old Belinda Bencic joins the fourth round for the first time at the Miami Open. She takes on Sloane Stephens who was victorious in straight sets. Garbine Muguruza fell short against 2013 French Open finalist Sara Errani. Errani will play either Sabine Lisicki or Ana Ivanovic.

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Dimitrov Destroys Pospisil to Advance at the Miami Open, Tsonga and Isner Advance

Dimitrov Destroys Pospisil to Advance at the Miami Open, Tsonga and Isner Advance

Tennis - 2015 ATP World Tour 1000 - Miami Open - Key Biscayne, USA - Day 6 - Saturday 28 March 2015One of the star matches on Stadium Court at the Miami Open featured 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov against promising prospect, Vasek Pospisil. For the Canadian who ousted Juan Martin Del Potro in the first round, it was a miserable day at the office. Dimitrov required only 59 minutes to dismantle his opponent 6-2, 6-2.

The ninth seed came out of the block blazing converting on double break point in the opening game. Dimitrov went on to cash in on another break point in the fifth game to take a 4-1 lead. The Bulgarian closed out the first set with ease with a love hold.

Unfortunately for Popisil, the second set offered more of the same. Leveled at 2 all, the Canadian surrendered his serve by double faulting. After Dimitrov consolidated, Pospisil dropped serve his next game. Without fanfare, Dimitrov sealed the match on his first match point.

In the third round, Dimitrov will battle John Isner. The American had a comfortable 6-3,6-4 victory against reigning junior world number one, 17 year old Andrey Rublev.

Earlier in the afternoon, in a hold over from last evening rained out session, the affable Frenchman Jo-Wilfreid Tsonga tussled with American Tim Smyczek for a spot in the third round. The 2008 Australian Open finalist who was on forced sabbatical due to an arm injury held off Smyczek 6-4,3-6,6-3.

Tsonga was satisfied with his performance considering this was his first match in few months “I didn’t expect to play my best tennis today ever. I’m happy the way I managed. . .I played pretty solid. I just had a little hole in the second set, it’s normal when you haven’t played since couple of months”.

Regarding the injury itself, Tsonga reflected “my arm is feeling better today. I hope it’s going to be better and better, but for first match was already something good for me.”

Next for the world number eleven is compatriot Gael Monfils who skipped Indian Wells this year due to a knee issue. Monfils dug deep against Filip Krajinovic in the tiebreaker after wasting a few match points to win 3-6,6-2,7-6.

On Grandstand court, 2014 U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori routed Mikail Youzhny 6-2, 6-1. Fifth seed Milos Raonic and 2013 Miami finalist David Ferrer also crushed their opponents to book their safe passage into the third round. Other winners today include young American Jack Sock, Juan Monaco, Belge David Goffin who schooled 18 year old talent Borna Coric and Fernando Verdasco.

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