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

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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

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

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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

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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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Federer Top Billing on Saturday at the Miami Open

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Federer Top Billing on Saturday at the Miami Open


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First on Stadium Saturday at the Miami Open, Stanislas Wawrinka takes on Horacio Zeballos. The world number three holds a 2-0 record against Zeballos who had his best results at this event last year as a lucky loser. After Roger Federer pulled out due to illness, he shocked both Juan Martin Del Potro and Fernando Verdasco to advance to the round of 16 before being stopped by David Goffin. Consequently, with the Argentinian fans behind him and fond memories, Zeballos could present a challenge for the men’s top seed.

Later on in the afternoon, Wawrinka’s compatriot Federer begins his quest for the coveted Indian Wells, Miami Open double trophy, something he has not accomplished in over a decade. The 35 year old, 18 time major champion faces American rising star, 19 year old Frances Tiafoe. This will be their first meeting. The dynamic should be interesting dynamic considering the venue and the disparity in their resume.

A few day matches on the men’s column which are must see include, Sam Querrey versus Tommy Robredo and John Isner versus wildcard
Thomaz Bellucci.

On the women’s side, after her narrow escape in three sets on Friday, needing a rain delay and saving a match point against Christina McHale, Spain’s Garbine Murguruza returns for her third round match against China’s Shuia Zhang. The two met for the first time in Doha this year in the round of 16 with Zhang pulling off the upset. Thus, Murguruza will hungry for payback.

Another compelling day session match is Agnieszka Radwanska versus Mirjana Lucic- Baroni. The Croatian stunned 2012 Miami Open Champion in the second round this year at the Australian Open on route to her semifinal berth for the first time at a major since Wimbledon 1999. So, revenge will be on the agenda for the Pole without question.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova and fifth seed Dominika Cibulkova also are back on court for their third round matches as well as 2015 French Open finalist Lucie Safarova.

The honor of closing out the night on the men’s side belongs to Juan Martin Del Potro as he tussles with Robin Haase. With a 2-0 record over the Dutch and with the South American crowd likely to be in full force, Del Potro will likely book a projected date with Federer for the third round.

For the ladies, Sorona Cirstea battles Caroline Wozniacki to end the evening. It will be a riveting contest considering their close head to head of 4-3 with the former world number one having the edge.

Click here for Saturday’s complete order of play.

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Fabulous Friday at the Miami Open Features Nadal and Nishikori in Action

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Fabulous Friday at the Miami Open Features Nadal and Nishikori in Action


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Friday the men will be the main attraction at the Miami Open as top ten players finally take court for second round play. The initial ATP match on display in Stadium Court showcases world number four Kei Nishikori against Kevin Anderson. The two played on three previous occasions all in 2015. Nishikori holds a 2-1 advantage in the win column. A former top 10 player, Anderson’s ranking has fallen to 74 due to niggling injury the last two seasons. However in looking to rebound, the 6 foot 8 inch South African will be quite a handful for Nishikori last year’s Miami Open finalist.

Later on in the afternoon, four time Miami Open finalist Rafael Nadal, with the absence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, begins his hunt for his first title in South Florida. Standing in the way in his maiden match is Dudi Sela. They’ve battled once before at the Australian Open with The Spaniard prevailing comfortably in three sets.

In the evening session, Grigor Dimitrov collides with Guido Pella on Stadium court. Two years ago, they duked it out with Dimitrov edging the Argentine out in two tough sets 7-6,6-4. Ranked 13th in the world, Dimitrov should handle his opponent, now at 178, with ease. But factoring in that the Argentinian will have plenty of support from the pro South American crowd, things might get dicey for the Bulgarian.

American Jack Sock fresh off his semifinal run at Indian Wells faces off against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka who himself as a lucky loser in the desert, had the tournament of his young tennis life so far. Nishioka shocked Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych to arrive at the round of 16. He nearly collected his biggest scalp against Miami Open top seed Stanislas Wawrinka before succumbing in a third set tiebreaker after failing to close out the match twice after being up a break. In their second meeting, Sock hopes to do better than their first in Acapulco this year since he was unable to collect the W.

On the ladies’ side, with sister Serena sideline by injury, Venus Williams carries the family’s hope for this Miami Open. The three time champion last made an appearance in the finals in 2010 with an unfavorable result. She clashes with Beatriz Haddad Maia for the first time in the second round. Also, World number one Angelique Kerber starts her campaign for the title, looking to improving on her best showing in South Florida which was a semifinal berth in 2016. The German contends with China’s Ying-Ying Duan, the two have never battled.

Click here for Friday’s complete order of play.

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Serena Williams Wards Off Diyas for a Spot into the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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Serena Williams Wards Off Diyas for a Spot into the Fourth Round at the Miami Open


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After a brutal three set tussle with fellow American Christina McHale two days ago, Serena Williams was probably looking forward to a routine third round match at the Miami Open against Zarina Diyas ranked 97th. Yet, this encounter was anything, but. The world number had to claw her way to a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

On the heels of Rafael Nadal retiring because of the insufferable heat to Damir Dzumhur world number 94th from Bosnia, the air seemed to have been sucked out of the stadium. However, when Williams broke to open the proceedings, there was a sense that perhaps order would be restored swiftly. Yet, her 22 year old opponent from Kazakhstan would not be docile. A few fist pumps followed a comeback from 15-40 to deuce. Soon after, Diyas leveled the set at 1 game a piece. There was no apparent hangover from their only prior meeting at Indian Wells in 2015, when Williams dismantled her 6-2, 6-0.

As a reminder though, Williams quickly broke at love the third game and consolidated for a 3-1 advantage. Still the young Kazakh refused to fold. After holding serve at love for 4-5, Diyas manufactured a break point by forcing three successive miscues from Williams. By pushing her counterpart into a backhand mistake, Diyas equalized the set at 5 all. Ultimately, Williams shifted gears to regain the control promptly and on her second try closed out the the set.

On a roll with six straight games, it seemed that the eight time Miami Open champion would cruise to victory. Once more, Diyas was not through. As Williams serve deserted her and the errors piled on, Diyas secured three successive games to reduce the deficit to a sole break 3-4.

The eighth game Williams stood fast to guard serve for 5-3. Later, with Diyas dumping a forehand into the net, the American was at double match point. As Diyas’ backhand misfired, relief was evident on Williams’ part as she punched her ticket into the round of 16.

Today’s triumph represents Williams’ 750th career match win. Despite, consecutive finals losses, the Australian Open and Indian Wells, something that Williams has not experienced in over a decade. She will surely surpass Lindsay Davenport’s 753 mark which is seventh best all time.

Williams acknowledged that today she had to problem solve along the way “She’s been on tour a few years. I’ve played her before and I know her game really well . . . I think she played above her level the whole match, and I think that’s actually a good sign for her, to know that she can play like that. . . I had to really raise my level to win today. I think she is doing everything better. More than anything, she had a lot of confidence this time. Obviously she has nothing to lose.”

By the time Williams got on court, the weather conditions had improved compared to the preceding match ” It was definitely humid today. Rafa played like an hour and a half, two hours before me, so that makes a huge difference. . he was in the most intense part of the sun; whereas I was kind of at tail end of it. . . For me the biggest adjustment I had to make is I usually never use a towel. Here I might have to go grab the towel in between points. . . But, I have been living here for over 20 years. I love these conditions actually.”

Up next for Williams is Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian edged out Caroline Garcia in a third set tiebreaker. Although the world number one has a 8-2 record over Kuznetsova, their riveting showdown at the French Open in 2013, it should be another thrilling contest. “It’s a great match-up. She plays well and makes a lot of the great shots. She’s actually been playing well this year. She had a couple big wins and couple good tournaments. I have my work cut out for me. We’ll see what happens.”

Off the court, the two are amicable. Williams cited ” we get along great. That’s no secret. She’s just someone that you respect and you like… Just something about her that I think everyone likes.”

Nothing like being at home, Williams has been dominant at this venue with a 74 wins and 7 losses. Moreover, Williams has not been ousted prior to the round of 16 since 2000 when she tasted defeat at the hand of Jennifer Capriati. Consequently, Monday’s match will be quite compelling as the top ranked player looks to reboot her 2016 season by continuing her quest for a ninth Miami Open title.

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Djokovic Withstands Murray for A Fifth Miami Open Trophy

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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

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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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Venus Williams Proceeds to the Quarterfinals at the Miami Open

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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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