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Order Restored at the Miami Open as Djokovic Cruises

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Order Restored at the Miami Open as Djokovic Cruises

Miami, Ricky Dimon
Order was restored to the Miami Open on Sunday, when scorching conditions relinquished at least a small part of their grip on Crandon Park Tennis center. Three retirements in the men’s singles draw had taken place amidst brutal heat on Saturday, which was not what the tournament needed 24 hours after Roger Federer withdrew due to illness. But no early stoppages plagued the field on Sunday as third-round action got underway.

Novak Djokovic’s only real trouble came in the form of a nasty fall during his first set against Joao Sousa. The world No. 1 also dropped serve twice in the opener, but he eventually picked up the pace and cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 victory.

“I slipped few times,” Djokovic commented. “Conditions here are quite different from Indian Wells. It’s pretty humid. Players are sweating a lot, so you have some obviously spots, especially behind the baseline, where it’s a little bit too wet…. That first set went down to a few points; (a) couple (of) long games when I lost my serve and then I broke him back. After that it was quite a good performance.”

It was a positively dominant one in set two. Djokovic surrendered a mere three points in three service games while breaking Sousa on three occasions. Sousa won just 10 points in the entire set before bowing out after one hour and 17 minutes.

“(The) second set felt much more comfortable,” the top-seeded Serb assured. “(I was) serving very well the entire day. It’s not easy. Obviously everybody talks about conditions being different, but it’s something that you have to accept. It’s same for your opponent and you. I’m glad that I managed to finish the match the way (I did).”

Four of the eight men’s matches on Sunday took long, circuitous routes to finish. A quartet of contests went the three-set distance and each of those four lasted more than two and half hours.

Tomas Berdych and Steve Johnson began the day on stadium court and the Czech needed two hours and 43 minutes to hold off the American 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3. On the Grandstand, lucky loser Horacio Zeballos saved one match point before upsetting Fernando Verdasco 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) in two hours and 34 minutes. Following a Richard Gasquet rout of Benoit Paire in between, Gilles Simon outlasted Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 in two hours and 46 minutes. It was the sixth time in as many head-to-head meetings that Simon and Cilic went to a final set.

Arguably the best was saved for last, as the nightcap in the stadium saw David Ferrer and Lucas Pouille battle to just a few minutes shy of 12:00 a.m. After two hours and 45 minutes of a roller-coaster affair, Pouille pulled off a 6-7(1), 7-6(5), 7-5 upset. The Frenchman held serve at 6-5 in the third from 15-40 down to clinch the biggest win of his career.

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

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Federer and Del Potro Both Out, Djokovic and Ferrer Advance in Miami

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Federer and Del Potro Both Out, Djokovic and Ferrer Advance in Miami

Miami, Ricky Dimon

There was no rematch of the 2009 U.S. Open final on Friday at the Miami Open. The highly-anticipated showdown between Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro did not come to fruition because Federer withdrew early in the afternoon due to illness. Gastroenteritis was the official reason for the former world No. 1’s absence.

Federer took the practice court for a light warmup with coach Ivan Ljubicic around noon, hitting a few balls and working on some serves. He left after 30 minutes without signing any autographs. Speculation ran rampant that something was amiss with the Swiss, who had been set to make his first appearance since the Australian Open. A knee injury had sidelined Federer for all of February and from Indian Wells.

Lucky loser Horacio Zeballos took Federer’s place, resulting in an all-Argentine affair with Del Potro. Despite suddenly staring at a much more favorable draw, Del Potro could not take advantage. Still experiencing pain in his left wrist, the 27-year-old lost 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 21 minutes.

Zeballos completely dominated on serve, surrendering only nine points in 10 service games. One break in each set was enough for the world No. 112, and the second came with Del Potro trying to stay in the match at 4-5 in the second. A shanked overhead by Del Potro brought up match point and he sent a forehand just past the baseline to end it.

“I was suffering a little bit,” he admitted. “It was worse than my first match, but I hope nothing dangerous. I will see what’s going on after today and see if I can practice tomorrow–if I can hit again [a] backhand.

“They said before this is a long road to get better; not to play well or to win matches, just to get better and to play tennis again. I’m looking forward for that. For me it’s like surprise when I win a match in this moment because I’m not 100 percent yet. But I’m here. Of course I’m suffering in moments, but I’m playing tennis–bad or really bad, but I’m playing. That’s good for me.”

What’s not good for the tournament is the early exits of Federer and Del Potro. The third-round matchup in that section of the draw is now Zeballos vs. Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Jeremy Chardy.

Other winners on Friday were Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Steve Johnson, Benoit Paire, Marin Cilic, David Ferrer, Gilles Simon, and David Goffin. Tomas Berdych advanced via a walkover from Rajeev Ram. Djokovic kicked off the night session by defeating 21-year-old Brit Kyle Edmund 6-3, 6-3.

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

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Blake Rolls Past Harrison, Joins Fellow Veterans in Next Round At Sony Open

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Blake Rolls Past Harrison, Joins Fellow Veterans in Next Round At Sony Open

Miami, FL Ricky Dimon
Not even a rain delay that lasted more than one hour and pushed the day schedule into the night session could keep James Blake from getting off the court at a reasonable hour on Wednesday at the Sony Open Tennis event. Blake crushed fellow American Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-2 in a mere 57 minutes to book a spot in the second round.

The 33-year-old squandered all of a 0-40 opportunity on Harrison’s serve in the third game of the match, but he took control with a break for 3-2 in the first set. From there it was all Blake the rest of the way. Harrison, who is now 0-3 in the head-to-head series, dropped the last five games of the opener and lost five of the first six games in the second. Blake eventually double-faulted on his second match point at 5-2, but he converted his third chance en route to a meeting with No. 24 seed Julien Benneteau.

The theme of the day on Stadium Court was veteran success, as Blake’s performance was preceded by victories for Lleyton Hewitt and Nikolay Davydenko. Hewitt took care of Joao Sousa 6-1, 7-6(3) before Davydenko held off Paolo Lorenzi 6-0, 2-6, 6-0. A thunderstorm tried to halt the 31-year-old Russian’s momentum at 2-0 in the third, but he picked up where he left off more than an hour earlier and surged through the last four games of the match.

“When you’re out injured and just had surgery and rehab, (it) feels like a long way away to getting back out there and playing the big tournaments again,” Hewitt explained. “You probably enjoy it a little bit more when you’re able to come back and bounce back from injuries, to be back competing at these tournaments. It’s nice to be back out there on center court today.”

Drama on the outer courts included a third-set tiebreaker featuring Jurgen Melzer and Ricardas Berankis, an impressive comeback by Somdev Devvarman against Evgeny Donskoy, and some bad blood between Michael Llodra and Benoit Paire.

Melzer outlasted Berankis 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(1) after previously edging the Lithuanian in a 2010 U.S. Open thriller that went to 7-5 in the fifth set. Devvarman trailed Donskoy by a set and a break and by 5-2 in the second-set tiebreaker before recovering to topple the Russian 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 in two hours and 28 minutes. Llodra and Paire, engaged in a heated verbal exchanged during the very first change over ends, had to be separated by chair umpire Damien Dumusois. There was no handshake between the players after Paire–who blew four set points in the opening frame of play–went down to his 32-year-old countryman 7-6(7), 6-2.

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

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