Archive for the ‘ATP’ Category

Djokovic outlasts Nadal for Miami crown
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Novak Djokovic continued his perfect start to the 2011 tennis season with a three-set triumph over world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the title match of the Sony Ericsson Open. Djokovic gutted out a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) triumph to earn his fourth title of the year in as many events, and he’s done so against impressive competition to run his match record to 24-0.

“It was one of the closest and best finals that I have played ever,” Djokovic said. “It’s the best four months in my life. But it’s only the start of the season … Still, this streak is incredible, and I want to keep on working hard and try to get more success.”

The Serb won the Australian Open crown to start the season, beating Andy Murray in the final for his second career Grand Slam championship, then topped Roger Federer for the Dubai crown in February before knocking off Nadal in both of the Masters events — first at Indian Wells last month and now in Miami.

It was the first matchup of the top seeds in the Miami final since 1995, when Andre Agassi knocked off top-seeded Pete Sampras in a third-set tiebreak, and Sunday’s tilt lived up to its advanced billing.

Each player held serve throughout the third set, then neither managed to win a point on serve over the first five points of the tiebreak. Djokovic won the fourth point to even it at 2-2, starting a run of five straight to take command.

An untimely double fault by Nadal made it 3-2 in favor of Djokovic, who also won the next three points — the last with a forehand winner — to grab a 6-2 edge. Nadal managed to prolong the match by winning the next two points, but a blistering forehand eluded the Spaniard and gave Djokovic his 22nd career title and second in Miami.

“I was there fighting until the last point. Nothing left in my body right now,” an exhausted Nadal said. “He’s very good … He’s playing with big confidence.”

Djokovic, who also won this title in 2007 and was the runner-up in 2009, has won his last 26 matches dating back to the 2010 season. He helped Serbia win the Davis Cup with a pair of singles victories last December and hasn’t lost since falling to Federer in the semifinals at the ATP World Tour Finals last November 27.

Nadal, meanwhile, failed to build on his record 18 Masters titles and was beaten in the Miami final for a third time. He also lost in 2005 to Federer and in 2008 against Nikolay Davydenko.

Djokovic wasn’t broken during the tournament until the first set Sunday.

Nadal picked up the first break of serve with a perfect backhand pass for a 2-1 lead in the first set, then had to save three break points against his own serve in the very next game.

After Djokovic missed wide with a backhand on the first break chance, the two engaged in a 27-stroke rally that finally ended with a Nadal forehand winner into the corner. Djokovic again earned another break point soon after, but drilled a forehand into the net and Nadal finally held.

Nadal then easily broke serve again in the next game and fought off another break point against his serve to open a commanding 5-1 edge. After Djokovic held at love, he battled for another break point and finally converted when Nadal sent a forehand into the net.

Djokovic blew all of a 40-0 lead in the next game, as Nadal forced it to deuce, but the Serb regained his composure and won the next two points. Nadal, though, finally prevailed in the set when Djokovic fired a forehand into the net.

However, the momentum Djokovic built late in the opening set carried into the second. After he held serve to start it, a quick break and a hold gave him a 3-0 edge. He did not relinquish the advantage and held serve at love in the ninth game, firing up an ace on the final point to send the match to a third set.

Djokovic became the first man to win at Indian Wells and Miami in the same year since Federer in 2006. His 24-match win streak to start the season is the third-longest, behind John McEnroe’s 39 straight in 1984 and Ivan Lendl’s 25 in a row in 1986.

Despite the loss, Nadal still owns a record of 16-9 against Djokovic, but the Serb owns a 9-5 mark on hard courts.

Djokovic collected a first prize of $611,000.

– Steve

Azarenka dominates Sharapova in Miami final
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Eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus handled 16th-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 6-4, to win the $4.5 million Sony Ericsson Open. Azarenka recorded eight service breaks, taking full advantage of a sluggish Sharapova, who committed six double faults.

After cruising through the opening set, Azarenka won the first four games in the second set before Sharapova earned a break. The three-time Grand Slam winner finally held serve and gained another break in the seventh game.

Sharapova saved two match points with a break to make it 5-4, but Azarenka capitalized on her third championship point to secure her second Miami title in three years and collect $700,000.

Azarenka evened her record in 12 career WTA finals, while Sharapova, who became a three-time runner-up at this event, fell to 22-12 in championship matches. Sharapova lost the Miami final to Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Svetlana Kuznetsova the following year.

– Steve

Nadal routs Federer, will meet Djokovic in Miami final

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Rafael Nadal overpowered Roger Federer to record a surprisingly easy semifinal victory Friday at the $4.5 million Sony Ericsson Open, the second straight ATP Masters event.

The top-seeded Nadal recorded the 6-3, 6-2 win in about 79 minutes, breaking his Swiss opponent four times and dropping only 10 points on serve.

He will meet sizzling-hot former champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final. The second-seeded Djokovic stayed undefeated in 2011 by handling 14th-seeded American Mardy Fish, 6-3, 6-1, in Friday’s first semifinal on the hardcourts at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park.

But whereas Djokovic’s victory did not surprise — he had never lost to Fish entering the match — Nadal’s win, or at least the way he won, did.

Federer had won the last installment of the great rivalry, the championship match at the 2010 ATP World Tour Finals. He is also a two-time winner at Miami and beat Nadal in the 2005 final.

But he struggled with his serve Friday. While he recorded six aces, Federer won only 31-of-58 service points. The 16-time major champion also had little answer for Nadal’s serve, failing to convert either of the break points he had.

There had not been such a lopsided result in the rivalry since 2009, when Federer was a 6-4, 6-4 winner in the Madrid Masters title match.

Nadal improved his lifetime record against Federer to 15-8, and will next seek to take down the hottest player in men’s tennis, Djokovic.

The Serbian slugger is a flawless 23-0 this year after waiting through a rain delay to wrap up his 85-minute defeat of Fish. Djokovic’s record includes his title run at the Australian Open in January. The 2007 champion and 2009 Miami runner-up has also captured titles in Dubai and Indian Wells this season,

Djokovic’s Indian Wells victory came at Nadal’s expense, though that was only his eighth win in 24 tries against the reigning U.S. Open, Wimbledon and French Open champion.

Nadal will look to extend his record for Masters crowns to 19 on Sunday, while Djokovic will be going for his 22nd career title.

The 2011 Miami champion will collect $611,000.

– Steve

Serena withdraws from U.S. Open

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the U.S. Open because of a right foot injury she sustained last month.

The world No. 1 cut her foot on broken glass in a restaurant in July, an injury that required surgery and forced her to miss a series of events, including the current one in Montreal.

Williams, 28, is a 13-time Grand Slam winner and the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion. She has won the U.S. Open three times, most recently in 2008.

“We regret that Serena Williams is unable to play the U.S. Open and wish her a speedy recovery,” said tournament director Jim Curley in a statement. “She will be missed, but the tournament is about the competition and the players on the court. This year’s U.S. Open will be a memorable event, as it has been every year.”

Last year in New York, Williams reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Kim Clijsters under unusual circumstances. The American star was called for a foot fault that gave Clijsters match point, then was penalized a point following a tirade at the line judge.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)

Zvonareva ousts Clijsters in Montreal

Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva upset U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters in Friday’s quarterfinal action at the $2 million Rogers Cup, a hardcourt U.S. Open tune-up.

The eighth-seeded Zvonareva came from behind to dismiss the fifth-seeded Clijsters in 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 fashion on the hardcourts at Uniprix Stadium. The Russian prevailed in 2 hours, 7 minutes, with the help of nine double faults from her Belgian counterpart. Zvonareva, herself, piled up eight double faults, but broke Clijsters’ serve on a whopping seven occasions en route to victory.

The former world No. 1 Clijsters, who was fresh off her title in Cincinnati last week, captured this Rogers Cup event, in Toronto, in 2005.

Zvonareva lost to Serena Williams in last month’s Wimbledon finale.

Meanwhile, 11th-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova continued her recent winning ways with a 6-1, 6-3 spanking of Chinese Zheng Jie on Day 5. The two- time major champion Kuznetsova has won nine of her last 10 matches, including a title in San Diego two weeks ago.

This week’s winner will earn $350,000.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)

Berdych, Fish post wins in Cincy

Wimbledon runner-up  Tomas Berdych reached the third  round,  while hot  American Mardy Fish  posted an opening-round victory Tuesday  at the  $3  million Western  & Southern  Financial  Group Masters,  a U.S. Open Series event.

The  seventh-seeded Berdych  handled  Frenchman Paul-Henri  Mathieu 6-4,  6-4, while  the wild card Fish continued his recent fine play with a 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 victory  over  France’s Gilles Simon  on the  hardcourts at the Lindner Family Tennis  Center. The surging Fish has now won 30 matches this season, including 12 of his last 13, with recent titles coming in Newport and Atlanta.

Fish was the Cincinnati runner-up back in 2003.

Tuesday’s  other second-round  winner was Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis. The former Aussie  Open runner-up  snuck past  Brazilian Thomaz  Bellucci, 6-2,  4-6, 7-6 (7-4). Baghdatis was a runner-up in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago.

Baghdatis will meet the formidable Berdych in the round of 16.

There  were some opening-round upsets. Former top-10 Frenchman Richard Gasquet
grounded  12th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. Argentina’s David Nalbandian,  who  had lost the  last four times  to Ivan Ljubicic, upended the 15th-seeded  Croatian, 7-5,  6-0.  Also, Colombian  qualifier Alejandro  Falla dismissed 16th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils, 6-3, 6-4.

Fading  American James  Blake, a  wild card  this week,  continued his  recent losing  ways with a 6-3, 6-0 first-round setback at the hands of Uzbekistanian qualifier Denis Istomin. Blake was a Cincy finalist in 2007.

Istomin  is rewarded with a second-rounder against former top-ranked superstar Roger  Federer, this  week’s third  seed and  defending champion.  The 16-time major  titlist  Federer, who  beat  reigning  two-time Cincy  runner-up  Novak Djokovic in last year’s finale here, was also the Cincinnati champ in 2005 and 2007.

Towering American John Isner defeated Poland’s Lukasz Kubot, 6-2, 6-3.

Australian  Lleyton Hewitt  was  ahead  of Yen-Hsun  Lu,  6-4,  4-0, when  the Taiwanese  player  retired due to a  back injury. The former top-ranked Hewitt was the runner-up at this event in 2002 and 2004.

Talented  Latvian Ernests  Gulbis erased wild card and once-promising American Donald Young 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.

Additional   first-round  wins  came  for  German  Philipp  Kohlschreiber  and Frenchmen  Julien Benneteau  and  Jeremy  Chardy, who  will  face last  week’s Canadian  Masters  champion Andy  Murray in  the round of  32. The Aussie Open runner-up  Murray, who  beat Federer in last week’s finale in Toronto, was the Cincy champ in 2008.

The top seed is Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who has dominated the first half of ATP World  Tour Masters 1000 tournaments with a 26-3 match record. Nadal will play American qualifier Taylor Dent on Wednesday.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)

Henin done for 2010

An elbow injury she suffered at Wimbledon will force former world No. 1 star Justine Henin to miss the rest of the 2010 WTA Tour season.

The Australian Open runner-up hurt the elbow when she took a spill onto the court during her fourth-round match against reigning U.S. Open champ and fellow Belgian stalwart Kim Clijsters last month at the All England Club. Henin damaged elbow ligaments as a result of the fall.

The seven-time major champ stated on her website that she would not be able to practice again until October.

“I took several medical examinations and it is going in the right direction,” Henin said. “But it is still a slow recovery, so I need to be patient again until the end of 2010.”

Henin announced last fall that she would come out of retirement, which she announced in the spring of 2008, in order to return to the tour in time for this ’10 season.

The 28-year-old star reached four finals this year, going 2-2. She secured titles in Den Bosch and Stuttgart.

Henin expects to play her first 2011 tennis at the mixed-team Hopman Cup event, which starts on January 1.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)