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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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Murray, Federer in cruise control at Sony Open

Murray, Federer in cruise control at Sony Open

IMG_6856_Murray

Miami Ricky Dimon
With former coach Ivan Lendl sitting in his player box, Andy Murray showed signs of the Murray who won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon under Lendl. Murray crushed Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-1 in the third round of the Sony Open Tennis tournament on Sunday afternoon.

The defending champion, who is coming off back surgery and recently lost in the Indian Wells fourth round, has been dominant since dropping his first set of this Miami event to Matthew Ebden. Murray has now yielded a mere six games in his last four sets. He converted five of six break-point opportunities against Lopez, who served at a horrendous 43 percent.

“I moved well [and] returned well,” said Murray. “It’s not always that easy to feel comfortable against him because there is not [a lot] of rhythm with the way he plays.”

The No. 6 seed is joined in the last 16 by Roger Federer, who stormed past Thiemo de Bakker 6-3, 6-3 in just one hour and three minutes. Federer surrendered only seven service points in the entire match. He lost just three points on serve against Ivo Karlovic in the second round.

Sunday’s opening match on the Grandstand featured a far more competitive affair. Neither man was at his best, but the result was an entertaining, back-and-forth battle between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marcos Baghdatis. Tsonga prevailed 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-5 in two hours and 30 minutes.

To say the Frenchman took a circuitous route to victory would be an understatement. He trailed by a set and by 5-1 in the second-set tiebreaker. Baghdatis was two points from the match on six different occasions but could not cross the finish line. Tsonga won five straight points for 6-5, double-faulted on set point, but then won it on a Baghdatis double-fault at 6-7.

Tsonga saved all five of the break points he faced in set three before breaking serve for the very first time in Baghdats’ final service game at 5-5. It finally ended in the 12th game of the decider on Tsonga’s 16th ace.

Murray and Tsonga will face each other in the fourth round, while Federer is going up against Richard Gasquet.

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WTA Veterans Advance to fourth round at the Sony Open

WTA Veterans Advance to fourth round at the Sony Open

IMG_7049_Cibulkova(March 23, 2014) Li Na held off Madison Keys 7-6(3), 6-3 in a slugfest on Sunday morning at the Sony Open to reach the fourth round.

The world No. 2 and young American who are both represented by agent Max Eisenbud, each broke serve three time in the opening set. Along with hitting deep groundstrokes, both women committed tons of unforced errors.

Li saved set points, down 3-5 in first set and was forced to rebound from being a break down at 0-2 early in the second set. Keys was within a point of going up 3-0 in the second set.

“I think it was pretty tough match,” Li said. “I think she play well, big serve, big forehand, especially when she was like 3‑1 down and then come back 5‑3‑up and serve for the first set.

“She’s No. 2 in the world for a reason,” Keys said. “She just won Australian Open for a reason. She’s a great player.”

Carla Suárez Navarro, who cruised past No.24 seed Kaia Kanepi, 6-2, 6-1 will face the world No. 2 in fourth round.

No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska had to fight breaks in both sets to stop Elena Vesnina 7-5, 6-3.

Three-time Sony Open champion Venus Williams edged out wildcard Casey Dellacqua 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to reach the fourth round.

The match which lasted two-and-a-half hours saw Williams commit 44 unforced errors but she hit 11 aces in the win.

“She’s playing so well and mixing her shots up so I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but definitely looking forward to the next round,” Venus Williams said.

“I do try and compete. I mean, being out here, even if it’s not your best day, no matter what the circumstances are, for me, I just try to walk off the court knowing at least even if I didn’t play my best I gave 100,000%.”

Williams will face No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova, who beat No. 22 Alice Cornet 7-6 (6), 6-1.

Elina Svitolina, came back from a set and a break down to beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The night match saw No. 18 Caroline Wozniacki destroy No. 16 Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-0 on Stadium court in less than an hour.

“I’m pleased about the way I played,” Wozniacki said. Definitely very happy about the performance out there.

“Just got my butt kicked, and that’s about it really,” Stephens said.

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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