2014/04/17

Guillermo Garcia-López Captures Casablanca Tennis Title

Garcia-Lopez

By Florian Heer

(April 13, 2014) CASABLANCA – Before the final had started on Sunday, it was clear that a new Grand Prix Hassan II champion will be crowned in Casablanca when the all-Spanish-affair took place between first-time finalists Marcel Granollers and Guillermo Garcia-López. It was the second time in three years that two Spaniards have faced off in the final here, after Pablo Andújar defeated Albert Ramos in 2012. The last meeting between the two players also took place in Casablanca back in 2010 with the better outcome for Garcia-López winning in straight sets.

In Sunday’s encounter, it was the 27-year-old from Barcelona having the better start. In front of an almost fully packed Centre Court, Granollers broke in the 11th game of the opening set to take it after 66 minutes.

In the second set, the quality of the match improved and the often noisy crowd heated up the atmosphere under the Moroccan sun. Garcia-Lópzez, who lost his focus due to some unsettled spectators for only a short time, gained the decisive break in the tenth game to take the match the distance.

The 30-year-old also had the better start into the final set, capitalized on his first break point opportunity and just played more consistent than his opponent. Garcia-López served the match out in the ninth game winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to capture his third ATP career title after two hours and 38 minutes.

“Of course I’m very happy today,” the winner stated afterwards. “I know Marcel very well. We practice together a lot of times, so we have known each other’s games for a long time. The match was very close all the time. We also had to face a couple of interruptions by the crowd, so the match was also very long and not easy to play for us,” Garcia-López said. “To play aggressively and concentrated was the key to success today. I will gain confidence from this win, as last year I played two finals and wasn’t able to seal victory. Today was a big step for me,” the Spaniard concluded.

His fellow countryman was understandably disappointed. “I think it was a tough match for both of us,” Granollers said. “I played solid until the middle of the second set, but then I had a couple of bad games. Guillermo, however, played a good match and he deserved to win,” Granollers said accepting defeat.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit!  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

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All-Spanish Final Set for Casablanca

 

Granollers

Granollers

By Florian Heer

(April 12, 2014) CASABLANCA – The semifinalists took to the court on Saturday in Casablanca to battle it out for a place in Sunday’s final. World No. 36 Marcel Granollers, the highest ranked player left in the draw, faced sixth-seed Federico Delbonis for the second time. In the pair’s lone meeting in Gstaad last year it was the Spaniard who emerged victorious in straight sets. On Saturday it also seemed to become a pretty quick affair for the 28-year-old from Barcelona. Granollers was in total control of the opening set, as Delbonis simply hit too many unforced errors. Consequently, the Spaniard broke his opponent’s service three times to take the first set in the seventh game in only thirty minutes. The Argentine started to get into the match when he capitalized on his very first break point in the third game of the second set. Granollers, however, was the more consistent player gaining the break back in the eighth game to finally take the match two games later winning it 6-1, 6-4 in 74 minutes.

I played a solid match today without any mistakes and also served well,” the winner told afterwards. “In the beginning of the second set Federico started to play better. It was tough, as he gained an early break and was 2-0 up. He was hitting very hard from the baseline but I kept fighting and I’m very happy to reach the final here,” Granollers added.

In the second semifinal eighth-seeded Guillermo Garcia-López took on the tournament’s surprise break out star Roberto Carballés-Baena for the first time. The latter became the first qualifier to reach the final in Casablanca since Gilles Simon defeated Andrey Kuznetsov in 2008. In the beginning of the encounter, the Spanish youngster seemed to be tired and exhausted after a long week and so Garcia-López was in total control in the opening set winning the frame in the eighth game. Yet, Carballés fought back, won some spectacular rallies and took the second set in the tie-break.

The crowd fully backed the underdog but in the end it was the more experienced player, who advanced into his first final of the season. The 30-year-old from Albacete broke serve in the seventh game and eventually took the match winning 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 after a classy clay court fight over two hours and 47 minutes. “It was an even match today,” a lucky winner stated afterwards. “Roberto played really well, in particular in the tie-break he played his best tennis. I was happy to close the match in the ninth game,” Garcia-López said and is looking forward to the final against his fellow countryman. The last meeting between the two took place in Casablanca in 2010. Back then, Garcia López won in straight sets. “Tomorrow will be a different match. The last time I met Marcel here was in one of the opening rounds and now it will be a final,” the Spaniard said. “Marcel didn’t have a great start into the season but now with beginning of the clay court season, he plays really well. He will be very dangerous tomorrow and I have to play my best tennis,” Garcia-López explained.

Doubles ceremony

Earlier on Saturday, top-seeds Horia Tecau and Jean-Julier Rojer took their third team title beating Tomasz Bednarek and Lukas Dlouhy 6-2, 6-2 in only 56 minutes. The Romanian-Dutch combination didn’t drop a set this week. “Besides my home tournament in Bucharest, this event here in Casablanca is the one I played most on the ATP Tour,” Tecau said after lifting his third trophy in Morocco. “Casablanca is a special place, where I am pretty successful and I’m very familiar with everything here. It’s always a cosy feeling to come back,” the Romanian told the press.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit!  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

RESULTS – SATURDAY, 12 APRIL 2014

Singles – Semi-finals
[4] M Granollers (ESP) d [6] F Delbonis (ARG) 61 64
[8] G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d [Q] R Carballes Baena (ESP) 62 67(6) 64

Doubles – Final
[1] J Rojer (NED) / H Tecau (ROU) d T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE) 62 62
SCHEDULE – SUNDAY, 13 APRIL 2014

COURT CENTRAL start 2:25 pm
[4] M Granollers (ESP) vs [8] G Garcia-Lopez (ESP)

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Three Spaniards to Headline Casablanca Semis

By Florian Heer

(April 11, 2014) CASABLANCA – Quarterfinal Friday at the Complexe Sportif Al Amal started on Centre Court with 2010 finalist Victor Hanescu, who took on the tournament’s sixth seed Federico Delbonis for the first time.

The 32-year-old Romanian upset Casablanca’s top-seed and world number 19, Kevin Anderson, winning in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in the round before on Wednesday. Delbonis, who has struggled on hard courts this year without winning one single match so far, but posted a 9-3 record on clay. So the 23-year-old started with confidence in this match, coming back from one break down to convert his first set point taking the opening set in the tie-break. Delbonis broke in third game of the second set again winning 7-6, 6-3 in one hour and 40 minutes. The Argentine, who recently won his maiden title on the ATP World Tour in Sao Paulo, advanced into his only third career semifinal.

Next it was time for the Spaniards to step into action. Yesterday three of four players from the Iberian Peninsula advanced into the quarterfinal. Traditionally, Casablanca seems to be a good venue for the Spanish players, as in the past three years with Tommy Robredo and two-time Pablo Andújar, all title winners came from Europe’s southwest. The tournament’s fourth seed Marcel Granollers faced Pablo Carreňo-Busta for the first time. The latter found answers to the aggressive and attacking tennis of Granollers and took the opening set in the tie-break with two cross court passing shots. From then on, however, it was the world number 36 from Barcelona, who took command in this match. Granollers gained the second set in the ninth game and even bageled his fellow countryman in the final frame winning 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 in two hours and 22 minutes.

“Fighting for every point until the end of the match was the key to success today,” Granollers told media afterwards.

“The first set lasted one hour and fifteen minutes and it was very tough to lose the set after this time. Nonetheless I kept fighting and in the end I think that I played a very solid match,” the Spaniard said. “It is also never easy to play against a fellow countryman. We practice together in Barcelona and so we know each other very well,” Granollers added.

“Tomorrow I’ll try to play as good as I did yesterday and today. Federico is a very strong player but I’ll try to keep focused on my game and of course to win the match,” the 27-year-old stated about his upcoming semi-final match against Federico Delbonis.

In the next match on Centre Court Benoit Paire went up against Guillermo Garcia-López for the third time. The Frenchman was leading the head to head series 2-1 before the encounter but it was the 30-year-old from Albacete, who drew first blood breaking his opponent’s service in the fifth game. Paire, who was backed by the majority of the crowd evened score in the sixth game but lost his service again in the eleventh game and therewith the set. The match was full of emotions and in the end it was the Spaniard, who stayed focused winning 7-5, 7-6 in one hour and 37 minutes to reach his first semi-final in Casablanca.

“I’m very happy with this win today. Reaching the final four at an ATP Tour event is always a great achievement,” Garcia-López was pleased with his performance. “Benoit is French and we are in Morocco, so it’s normal that he got a very good support today by the crowd but we are tennis players and need to stay focus during the match. I think it was ok,” the Spaniard told about the atmosphere.

Paire was also happy that he has returned to the circuit after his injury. “The most important thing for me is that I’m back on court. I didn’t play very well today but it’s normal after a rest of three month. I lost but I’m happy,” the French said. “I could gain some confidence from this week – not about my game – but I’m positive with my knee. I can play without any pain and that I can go to Monte Carlo now,” Paire added.

In the final match of the day qualifier Roberto Carballés-Baena met lucky loser Andrey Kuznetsov for the first time. The Russian replaced Gael Monfils in the draw reached his second quarterfinal in Casablanca when his second round opponent Jiri Vesely withdrew with illness. Kuznetsov made a disappointing start into this match losing his opening service game and the Spanish youngster was able to serve out in tenth to gain the first set. Carballès had to work hard for his points but played a solid game with great groundstrokes and a lot of confidence. After 88 minutes the Spaniard served the match out winning 6-4, 6-2 to advance into his first ever ATP World Tour semi-final. “I’m very happy with today’s match,” Carballés told me afterwards. “I felt a bit tired with my legs after two hard matches yesterday and today but finally everything went very well. This has been my best week in my career so far and of course I’m totally happy,” the 21-year-old qualifier concluded.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit!  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

 

Grand Prix Hassan II
Casablanca, Morocco

RESULTS – FRIDAY, 11 APRIL 2014

Singles – Quarterfinals
[8] G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d [3] B Paire (FRA) 75 76(4)
[4] M Granollers (ESP) d P Carreno Busta (ESP) 67(4) 63 60
[6] F Delbonis (ARG) d V Hanescu (ROU) 76(5) 63
[Q] R Carballes Baena (ESP) d [LL] A Kuznetsov (RUS) 64 62

Doubles – Semi-finals
[1] J Rojer (NED) / H Tecau (ROU) d D Bracciali (ITA) / F Delbonis (ARG) 63 64
T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE) d [2] J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS) 63 75

SCHEDULE – SATURDAY, 12 APRIL 2014

COURT CENTRAL start 12:00 noon
[1] J Rojer (NED) / H Tecau (ROU) vs T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE)
Not Before 1:30 pm
[6] F Delbonis (ARG) vs [4] M Granollers (ESP)
[8] G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) vs [Q] R Carballes Baena (ESP)

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Benoit Paire Returns to ATP Tour with Win in Casablanca

 

Benoit Paire photo by Florian Heer

Benoit Paire photo by Florian Heer

By Florian Heer

(April 10, 2014) CASABLANCA – Six second round matches took place on Thursday at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca. In warm but misty conditions, yesterday’s ATP World Tour first-time winner Roberto Carballés-Baena opened a bid for a place in the quarterfinals by taking on fifth-seeded Joao Sousa, who currently sits at a career high No. 38 in the ATP Rankings. The Portuguese became the first player from his country to break into the top 50. Sousa also won the two previous meetings between the two in straight sets on Future level back in 2011.

Thursday it became a more even affair and the two first sets had to be decided in a tie-break. It was a classic clay court match with long an intense rallies, eventually with the better ending for the 21-year-old from Tenerife. Carballés-Baena gained two breaks in the final set to take the match winning 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 in three hours and thirteen minutes.

The Spaniard will face Andrey Kuznetsov next. The lucky loser from Russia, who replaced the tournament’s actual second seed, Gael Monfils, defeated Jiri Vesely 6-2, 3-1 on court two when the Czech was forced to retire due to sickness after only 44 minutes.

Back on centre court was a crowd favorite, Benoit Paire has returned to tournament play for the first time since the Australian Open after recovering from a knee injury. The Frenchman advanced into the quarterfinal in Casablanca for the last two consecutive years and repeated this achievement through a victory against Albert Montaňés in one hour and 37 minutes winning 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

Pablo Carreňo-Busta defeated another player, who collected his first ATP World Tour win yesterday, Aleksandr Nedovyesov. The world No. 64 from Spain recovered from a set down and finally had the better ending in winning 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 in one hour and 50 minutes.

The 22-year-old from Gijón will face compatriot Marcel Granollers. The latter defeated Albert Ramos in an all-Spanish-affair 6-3, 7-6 in 100 minutes in the final match of the day. Granollers convinced with aggressive tennis and also some solid serve and volley play. It was the first time since Chennai that the 27-year-old from Barcelona did not fall in his opening match.

A fourth Spaniard will complete in Friday’s quarterfinals when Guillermo Garcia-López took out Carlos Berlocq winning 6-2, 7-5 in one hour and 53 minutes.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit!  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

 

RESULTS – THURSDAY, 10 APRIL 2014

Singles – Second Round
[3] B Paire (FRA) d A Montanes (ESP) 64 57 64
[4] M Granollers (ESP) d A Ramos (ESP) 63 76(3)
[Q] R Carballes Baena (ESP) d [5] J Sousa (POR) 67(7) 76(5) 62
[8] G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d C Berlocq (ARG) 62 75
P Carreno Busta (ESP) d O Nedovyesov (KAZ) 36 61 76(3)
[LL] A Kuznetsov (RUS) d J Vesely (CZE) 62 31 ret. (sickness)

Doubles – Quarter-finals
T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE) d [3] C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR) 26 64 10-8
D Bracciali (ITA) / F Delbonis (ARG) d [4] O Marach (AUT) / F Mergea (ROU) 76(3) 36 10-6

SCHEDULE – FRIDAY, 11 APRIL 2014

COURT CENTRAL start 12:00 noon
V Hanescu (ROU) vs [6] F Delbonis (ARG)
Not Before 1:30 pm
[4] M Granollers (ESP) vs P Carreno Busta (ESP)
[8] G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) vs [3] B Paire (FRA)
[Q] R Carballes Baena (ESP) vs [LL] A Kuznetsov (RUS)

COURT 2 start 1:00 pm
T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE) vs [2] J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS)
Not Before 2:00 pm
After Suitable Rest – [1] J Rojer (NED) / H Tecau (ROU) vs D Bracciali (ITA) / F Delbonis (ARG)

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Djokovic Handily Defeats Nadal at Sony Open For A Second Indian Wells-Miami Double

By Kevin Ware

(March 30, 2014) KEY BISCAYNE – In a result that few expected, Novak Djokovic handily beat Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3 in the Sony Open men’s final for his fourth title in Miami (2007, 2011, 2012, 2014). This win is also his fourth Masters Series title win in a row (Shanghai, Paris, Indian Wells, Miami), and his second Indian Wells-Miami double.

More importantly, it was his third straight win over his Spanish rival before the start of the clay season, which could make for interesting drama in run up to the French Open.

Sunday’s match between Djokovic and Nadal was the 40th meeting in what has become the most prolific rivalry in ATP history. Many expected Sunday’s match to provide an encore to their epic 2011 final. But after fending off his only break point in his first service game of the match, Novak eventually settled into a ground game for which Nadal had few answers.

For Nadal, the key to winning this match was threefold: serve well, vary his ground game, and defend the Djokovic “down the line” backhand with aggressive hitting on his own backhand. There were early signs, however, that Nadal’s weaponry was misfiring.

He struggled to find the necessary depth on his crosscourt forehand, his backhand often sailed long, and Djokovic rarely allowed him to tee off on his preferred inside-out forehand. Conversely, once Djokovic found his range on his backhand and forehand shots, Nadal was on constant defense with little chance to assert his game on his Serbian opponent.

The crucial break in the first set came at 3-2 on the Nadal serve. Struggling to find his first serve, Nadal quickly sank to Love-30 with the help of a Djokovic touch volley winner and an untouchable crosscourt backhand winner. A timely unreturnable serve gave Nadal a glimmer of hope, but was quickly snuffed out by an amazing baseline-kissing Djokovic forehand followed by a Nadal backhand unforced error.

That one break was all that Djokovic needed to close out the first set in 39 minutes.

Nadal’s usually reliable serve let him down badly in the final. His first serve percentage of 59% wasn’t great, but his 47% second serve percentage was major a liability. Nadal’s lacking offensive game stemmed from an inability to defend second serves that were often 80-90 mph. Then again, it’s difficult to defend that speed at the top of the men’s game, even with perfect placement.

There was concern that perhaps a flair-up of his earlier back issues was affecting his serve speed. Nadal, always reluctant to talk about injury issues, gave a curt, “I am fine.  Thank you very much” when asked about this in post-match press.

The second set continued as the first ended, with Nadal struggling on offense, and Djokovic confidently hitting every shot in his repertoire. There were moments when Nadal’s offensive game surfaced, only to be muted by one of his many unforced errors on the next point. Nadal fought as best he could, but couldn’t stop the inevitable as Djokovic ended the long championship point rally with a volley into open court.

Nadal ended the match with 15 winners against 20 unforced errors. Djokovic’s numbers were significantly better at 22 winners against 14 unforced errors. In matches that are determined by a handful of points, it’s hard to overcome this type of deficit.

For Nadal, however, the primary cause for Sunday’s final failures was the superior play of his opponent. Djokovic is one of the few players who can hurt Nadal when he’s playing his best tennis. He can hurt Nadal in many ways, and with few defensive options.

“So playing against him is the worst thing that can happen for me, because in general, talking about the first two shots, he has a better return than my one, he has a better serve than my one in this surface, especially.”

“Today Novak played at very high level in my opinion and was better than me.”

In sharp contrast to the relief displayed by Djokovic after his win over Roger Federer at Indian Wells, the newly-crowned Miami champion came into Sunday’s post-match news conference smiling, happy, and obviously looking forward to continuing his momentum as the tour moves to European clay. He credited the confidence from that Federer win for much his strong play in Miami.

“That was a great confidence boost for me that I carried on in this week, and this tournament has been perfect from the beginning to the end.  The matches that I have played I played really well, and I elevated my game as the tournament progressed.  The best performance of the tournament came in the right moment on Sunday against the biggest rival (Nadal).”

When asked if he was glad that Djokovic existed to offer him a challenge”, Nadal quickly (and jokingly) said, “No.  I like challenges, but I am not stupid.”

In a telling reversal, Novak offered a very different viewpoint on the challenge of playing his rivals. “I think challenges, big challenges that I had in my career changed me in a positive way as a player. Because of Rafa and because of Roger I am what I am today…”

“Obviously it’s not easy when you’re playing a top rival at the finals of any tournament, but if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, you know.  You have to win against the best players in the world. That’s the biggest challenge you can have.”

Nadal’s loss in Sunday’s final continued a disappointing trend for Spaniards in Miami. No Spanish men have won the title in the tournament’s 30-year history, and are 0-7 in the Miami final. Nadal lost in four of those finals, and is joined by David Ferrer (2013), Carlos Moya (2003), and Sergi Brugera (1997).

Kevin Ware was in Key Biscayne covering the Sony Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Serena Williams Wins A Record-Setting Seventh Miami Title at the Sony Open

By Kevin Ware

(March 29, 2014) MIAMI – Serena Williams won her seventh Sony Open title over Li Na in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1.

With this win, Williams becomes the winningest player in the tournament’s history. Competing in her ninth final, Williams’ seven titles now eclipses the six won by Andre Agassi. She has the most main draw match wins in tournament history (67), and joins Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova as the fourth player in the Open Era to win the same tournament seven or more times.

None of this would have come to pass, however, if Williams hadn’t willed herself into yet another brilliant comeback after an error-filled start to the women’s final. In her semi against Maria Sharapova, Williams found herself in a deep hole, down 1-4. In her final against Li Na, the reigning Australian Open champion, she once again found herself behind the eight ball.

The statistics tell the story of Williams struggles, with a first-serve percentage at 42%, 3 double faults, and 21 unforced errors against only 15 winners. While it’s true that Li Na got off to a great start with her own game, Williams was her own worst enemy. And then, two breaks down and fighting to stay in the set at 2-5, Williams rediscovered her championship mettle.

Forehands that had previously found the bottom of the net were hitting their mark deep in the corners or on the back of the baseline, her “down the line” backhand became untouchable, and her serve became the weapon that we’ve all come to expect from World No. 1.

The rest is history. Williams went on to win 11 of the next 12 games, fighting off one set point at 4-5 before winning a closely-fought first set, and rolling through the second. It was a vintage performance from a player who seems to play her best when facing defeat.

When asked about this particular trend in her post-match news conference, Williams was quick to say, “I definitely don’t do it on purpose.”

“I think for the most part, I try to do the best I can, and sometimes, you know, things I’m doing don’t work out, but they are the right things and eventually they start to work.”

Li Na had her chances to close out the set, but was broken twice in the process. The second of those breaks, lasting 6 deuces, handed the first set to Williams. After relinquishing such a big lead, one might expect a certain amount of frustration or disappointment. But Li Na, who’s gained a newfound sense of calm since beginning her work with coach Carlos Rodriguez, was pragmatic about the lead that slipped away.

“I don’t have to see how was the score, because even the match didn’t finish yet.  Still everyone has a chance.” She went on to add, “I think this is tennis, because if I was play more aggressive, for sure she will going back a little bit.  If she play a little bit forward, I have to going back a little bit. So this is tennis.”

In spite of the loss, Li was happy with her game. “I mean, really nothing to say.  I don’t think today I was doing like a wrong game plan or I was play totally wrong. I think it was pretty good match.”

The second set was a cleaner affair for Williams. Though her first serve percentage remained low at 43%, she managed to win 90% of first serve points and 61% of second serve points. More importantly, she didn’t allow her serving woes to bring down the rest of her game as it has in past matches.

“I think now if my serve isn’t great, it’s okay because I have a great forehand, I have a great backhand, I have great speed.”

“You know, I have so many things that I want to have a backup plan, because today I only served at 40%.  I still have to figure out a way to win doing that.” Her backup plan was clearly more than enough to overcome on this day.

With 59 titles under her belt, and a slew WTA records, Williams could justifiably retire tomorrow as one of the all-time greats. I was curious to know just how this future Hall of Famer continues to challenge herself when there’s so little left to prove.

“I think I love the challenge, and I feel like if I feel like I can be the best right now, then why not continue to be the best and do the best that I can?”

Spoken like a true champion.

Kevin Ware is in Key Biscayne covering the Sony Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Tomas Berdych Pulls Out of Miami, Rafael Nadal Advances to Final Aganist Novak Djokovic

Tomas Berdych

(March 28, 2014) Seventh  seed Tomas Berdych has been forced to withdraw from the Sony Open due to gastroenteritis.  Rafael Nadal will advance to the final with a walkover. He will play Novak Djokovic for the Miami Masters title on Sunday. This will mark their 40th head-to-head meeting.

Earlier in the day Kei Nishikori withdrew from his semifinal against Djokovic with a left groin injury.

Novak Djokovic Moves into Sony Open Final After Kei Nishikori Withdraws with Left Groin Injury

“I just woke up with a pain in my stomach, just went for toilet, and got really strong diarrhea,” Berdych said.  “And since then, it starts to go on and on.  More time, diarrhea, and then also throwing up and stuff like that.

“So I lost so much of the liquid and all the possible energy I could have.

“Came here.  Tried to do as much as I could, you know, see the doctors, receiving the IV, and basically not with good results that I can basically go and try.”

“It’s not what we wish for,” Adam Barrett, the Sony Open tournament director said.  “First, I just want to thank Tomas that he did ‑‑ that he got out to the site.  We all know when you’re not feeling well, especially with the stomach bug of some sort, flu, virus, even a bad cold, you know, most of us don’t go to work.

“Yet to try to come out and prepare for a three‑set match against the No. 1 player in the world, it took a lot of effort for him to do that.  As I said, most of us would have been in bed watching TV all day.

“So I really appreciate that he gave it a shot.  Appreciate all the work that the doctors did trying to get him ready.  But unfortunately we have been unlucky today.  It’s never happened before.”

“It’s very unlucky, very unusual for something that can happen,” Rafael Nadal said.  “Sorry for Kei, sorry for Tomas, and sorry for the tournament, especially sorry for the fans.”

This weekend’s finals will both feature match-ups of the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players in the world. Saturday’s women’s final at 1 pm will see No. 1 Serena Williams taking on No. 2 Li Na. The men’s final at 2:30 pm on Sunday will see No. 1 Nadal battling No. 2 Djokovic.

 

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Novak Djokovic Moves into Sony Open Final After Kei Nishikori Withdraws with Left Groin Injury

 

Kei Nishikori withdrawal

(March 28, 2014) A little over an hour before he was to play his semifinal against Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori pulled out of the Sony Open citing a left groin injury. Nishikori just scored back-to-back three-set wins over No. 4 David Ferrer in the fourth round and No. 5 Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.

For Djokovic, who automatically advances to the final against the winner of the Rafael Nadal – Tomas Berdych match, it’s his second walkover her received in Miami this year. Florian Mayer was forced to pull out before his match in the third round.

Nishkori announced his withdrawal on Facebook and Twitter:

 

“I really felt the last match against Roger, the quarterfinal,” Nishikori told media. “I had it before Indian Wells, and I hurt it in Delray. It wasn’t 100% yet.

“Yeah, it’s really sad, of course, semifinal in a big tournament. Was really playing well and beating Dimitrov, David, and Roger. I was really excited to play here the semis.

“But, you know, unfortunately I couldn’t moving side to side. Just tried to warm up today, but I couldn’t move.”

“I’m going to go back to see a doctor in Japan and see how bad it is.  And I don’t know if I can play or not, but I will try.”

“t was a great run for me to beat two top 10 guys,” Nishikori said.  “And Dimitrov was also playing well this year.  And four good players to beat, it was a good week for me.

“So I have a lot of confidence, and it’s pretty unfortunate to get injured, but this was a very exciting and positive week for me.”

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Bryan Brothers to face Colombians Farah/Cabal in Men’s Doubles Final

 

Bryan Brothers Photo by Kevin Ware

Bryan Brothers Photo by Kevin Ware

By Kevin Ware

(March 27, 2014) KEY BISCAYNE – The Bryan brothers are on track to win their third Sony Open title after a straight sets 7-6, 6-2 win over the French pair of Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut in the semifinals. They will face the Colombian team of Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in what is sure to be a Davis Cup atmosphere for the men’s doubles finals. Cabal and Farah booked their spot in the finals after defeating the young American team of Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison in a thrilling come-from-behind 2-6 6-4 (11-9) victory that was helped by a supportive contingent of Colombians in the crowd.

Kevin Ware is in Key Biscayne covering the Sony Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Williams Continues Her Domination Over Sharapova To Reach 9th Miami Final

 

By Kevin Ware

(March 27, 2014) Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 to reach her ninth final in Key Biscayne. Williams came into this semifinal the prohibitive favorite, owing to her 15-2 head-to-head against Sharapova. But it was quickly evident that Williams’ best level hadn’t quite made it to the court by match time.

In a repeat of their 2013 final, Sharapova came out ready to play her best tennis from the very first point. She came out hitting the ball hard, deep, and into the corners. In typical fashion, she struggled with her first serve percentage, but still managed to start the match with a crucial hold.

Williams was slow to get going, and unable to take advantage of her many chances at the Sharapova second serve. She even struggled with her own potent serve at the outset, and was broken in the fourth game for a 4-1 Sharapova lead.

While this type of deficit might lead many players to panic, Williams kept her focus on the big picture. “I thought, Okay, I’m only down a break.  It was really just one break.  The scoreline looked bigger than what it was.  I felt if I could just break back, then I would be back in the match.”

Williams came back after the changeover with her “A” game ready to go. She methodically held serve for 2-4 before breaking Sharapova twice to take the first set 6-4. Her early sluggishness was replaced by big hitting, sharp angles, and untouchable serves.

The slump in Sharapova’s shoulders after Williams held at love for the set said it all. She has chances for a win if Williams is off her game, but knows that it’s going to be tough to beat Williams if she regains here form.

Sharapova was asked about Williams’s ability to take her game to another level when needed, and simply replied, “That’s why she’s No. 1 in the world.”

“There are always going to be drops. But she’s the player that is most capable of coming back from that or regaining focus and regaining that concentration as someone that’s ultimately going to do better.”

There was a glimmer of hope for Sharapova at the start of the second set when Williams took her foot off the pedal for a two-game walkabout that included lax defense, minimal footwork, and one of the worst drop shots seen at this year’s tournament. But Williams again raised her level as needed to break back for a 2-1 lead.

After Sharapova was broken at love in the seventh game of the second set for a 4-3 Williams lead, there was little chance this match might even go the distance to a third. Sharapova fought hard, but ultimately wilted under pressure. A forehand into the net handed Williams her 15th straight win over her Russian opponent.

Sharapova hasn’t beaten Williams in almost a decade, with her last victory coming at the 2004 WTA Championships in Los Angeles. And while many believe this to be one of the WTA’s big rivalries, she is quick to remind everyone that it’s not much of a rivalry until she can get a win.

When asked about their lopsided “rivalry”, Sharapova attempted to put a positive spin on the situation. “I mean, 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.”

“You finish the match, and you know where you need to improve and the things that you need to work on.”

In spite of her win, Williams remained subdued in the press room afterward, fending off questions of rivalries and potential challengers. She takes no one for granted, and views every opponent as a potential rival.

“I mean, everyone I play always plays me hard, so I feel like every match I play I literally have to be on my best, so for me I take a rival as every match, and I think that’s one of the best ways to take it.”

“You have to show up, and if you don’t show up, then your biggest threat will be yourself.”

Williams has won the title in Miami a record six times, one more than Steffi Graf. A seventh title would give her the record for the most Miami titles of all, surpassing the great Andre Agassi.

Williams will face Li Na in Saturday’s final after her late-night three-set win over Dominika Cibulkova.

Kevin Ware is in Key Biscayne covering the Sony Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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