May 29, 2016

Halep wins Madrid Open; Murray Beats Nadal and Will Meet Djokovic in the Final

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

(May 7, 2016) Calling her win “the best day in my life,” Romania’s Simona Halep won her second career WTA Premier Mandatory event when she beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-4 to claim the Madrid Open title.

“I saw always that it’s a special tournament because of Mr. (Ion) Tiriac, because of many Romanians that are coming here. I feel like home,” Halep said. Tiriac, also a Romanian, is a member of the tennis Hall of Fame is the Tournament Director of Madrid and gave Halep a wildcard into the tournament three years ago.

The victory for Halep marks her 12th career WTA tournament title. She will now move up to No. 5 in the rankings. Cibulkova will rise to No. 26.

Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic at GR8 Fundraiser in Miami in 2011

Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic at GR8 Fundraiser in Miami in 2011

Novak Djokovic will meet defending champion Andy Murray in the Madrid Open final on Sunday. No. 2 Murray saved 11 break points in holding off four-time Madrid winner No. 5 Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-4, snapping the Spaniard’s 13-match winning streak. Murray beat Nadal in last year’s Madrid final.

“Not loads of players have won against Rafa on clay throughout his career,” Murray said. “To beat him in Spain on a clay court is obviously a big, big challenge for any player. Very pleased to have beaten him this year.”

“Murray was not unbeatable today,” Nadal said in press. “It was an open match, an even match,”

“I didn’t play my best level, but I didn’t play badly. I played a medium level, which was not enough to beat Murray.”

Djokovic beat Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6(4) in the other men’s semifinal. The Serbian had some trouble serving out the match leading 6-4, 5-4 40-0. The man from Japan came back and held off four match points against him to even the set at 5-5. Both men held and went to a tiebreak, which Djokovic won 7-3.

“It wasn’t easy to play in these very windy conditions, but overall I’m very pleased,” Djokovic said.”

Going into the final Djokovic leads Murray 22-9, winning 11 of the last 12 matches, winning all four matches on clay. Murray needs to win on Sunday to keep his No. 2 ranking ahead of the French Open or Roger Federer will move up to the second spot.

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Novak Djokovic Wins Miami Open for Record 28th Masters Series Title

Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic photo courtesy of MiamiTennisNews.com

Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic photo courtesy of MiamiTennisNews.com

(April 3, 2016) Novak Djokovic won his third straight Miami Open title on Sunday over No. 6 Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3 to make himself both the all-time leader in Masters Series titles with 28 and the leader in career prize money with over 98 million dollars.

This is his sixth career Miami Open title and the world No. 1 has now completed the Indian Wells – Miami double in the same year for a fourth time, three years in a row.

The Serb has tied Andre Agassi for the most Miami Open tournaments won.

“I don’t know for other players, but it’s tough to find his weakness,” Nishikori said. I had a couple of strategies before this match, but I don’t think I did well enough to beat him today. I was missing a lot with my forehand and made too many unforced errors.

“He has great defense, so it’s tough to break his game. He was very patient and he didn’t miss. It’s always tough to play Novak.”

 

With the future of the Miami Open in doubt due to court battles in regard to be able to upgrade its facility, there is a possibility of relocation. Djokovic said: “I don’t know how much you follow the stories about the tournament moving,” he said during the trophy presentation. “I assure you it’s going to stay here for a long time. So see you next year.”

“From some reliable sources I know the tournament will stay here for many years to come,” he said laer during his news conference. “I don’t think we need to have a conversation about moving this tournament anywhere else.”

“Every year that I come back to Miami I do go through those memories from back in 2007,” Djokovic said. “It was the first Masters 1000 I won and opened a lot of doors for me. It gave me a lot of self-belief. I started to realize that I’m able to win the big trophies and to beat the best players in the world.

“So of course this is a [special] place for me to come back to, now winning it six times. Obviously I don’t take any win for granted and especially in the big ones. So it was my best performance of the tournament. It came at the right time against a great quality player.”
Djokovic is now 28-1 on the year, his only loss coming in Dubai when he had to retire from a match with an eye infection.

 

Djokovic also passed coach Boris Becker for sole possession of 11th place in the Open Era in match wins with his 714th.
Djokovic heads home to Europe to begin the clay court season.

“I have lots of motivation for the beginning of the clay court season that ends up hopefully with the crown in Paris,” he said. “But I’m not the only one who wants to win that big trophy.”

 

The French Open is the lone major Djokovic has never won.

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Novak Djokovic to Meet Kei Nishikori in Miami Open Final

(April 1, 2016) On Friday Novak Djokovic defeated David Goffin 7-6 (5), 6-4 to reach his seventh final at the Miami Open. The world No. 1 will be going for his third straight title in Key Biscayne and sixth overall on Sunday when he faces No. 6 Kei Nishikori.  Djokovic is on a 15-match winning streak in Key Biscayne.  In the other semifinal, Nishikori stopped 24th seed Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5.

Djokovic survived a tight first set against his Belgian opponent. A missed overhead smash by Goffin in tiebreak put the momentum in the Serb’s favor.

“Of course I was a bit fortunate in the tiebreak, but I made him play always an extra shot,” said Djokovic. “Second set was even better.”

“I was aware of the level that he raised his game in last couple of months. And the fact that he has played the first semifinals of a Masters 1000 event in his career in Indian Wells gave him obviously confidence coming into today’s match, and I knew he’s going to try to take his chances, going to try to be aggressive.

“He plays very clean, a tennis that is beautiful for the eye, you know, to watch, and the way he moves. Also, I think he improved his serve, first serve, especially in the first set. I had difficulty to kind of read it. It’s not as powerful and strong as maybe some other guys’, but it’s very precise and efficient. Also, he backs it up with a very efficient and good quality first shot after the serve.”

“There was a lot of big points in the first set,” Goffin said. “I had the break also earlier in the set, and at 4-3 I didn’t play good service game to do 5-3. Yeah, with new balls he was really aggressive with his return.

“Yeah, against Djokovic you have to make every point. You have to go for the shot in every point. He doesn’t give anything, so you have to win every point. It’s tough, because if you are not there for a few seconds, you lose the game.

“So, yeah. It’s always tough against Novak. But, yeah, at the end it was a really good first set with a lot of intensity, and, yeah, there was some — when we start the tiebreak it was, yeah, few second serves that I missed the return. I served well, but it was not enough, yeah, with the smash.”

Goffin who reached two straight Masters Series semifinals, Indian Wells and Miami, will see his ranking rise to 13.

“Of course my confidence is really high,” Goffin said of his recent results. “But of course I did two good weeks, two good tournaments, but I was not on fire. It was like really solid game, and I played my level. I really happy that mentally I was really competitive and I won a lot of good matches against many great players.

“So, yeah, I worked a lot during practice, so maybe that’s why it pays off during the match. But for the next tournaments and the rest of this season, of course the confidence is really high.”

Nishikori held back the hard-hitting Kyrgios in the night session. The man from Japan, survived five match points against Gael Monfils in his quarterfinal contest.

“It’s going to be tough, for sure,” Nishikori said about playing Djokovic in the final. “He has been playing well. I hope I can play another good match.”

Djokovic will be going for a record 28th Masters Series 1000 title, while Nishikori will be trying to win his very first. Should Djokovic win on Sunday he would tie tennis Hall of Famer Andre Agassi for the most number Miami titles with six and win his fourth Indian Wells-Miami double.

Djokovic leads in his career head-to-head against Nishikori at 6-2.

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Victoria Azarenka to Play Svetlana Kuznetsova in Miami Open Final

(March 31, 2016) A pair of former Miami Open winners and two-time major champions have reached the women’s final. Svetlana Kuznetsova, a 2006 winner of the Miami Open held off Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3. 2009 and 2011 Key Biscayne winner, 13th seed Victoria Azarenka gained a little revenge from the Australian Open by beating No. 2 Angelique Kerber. Kerber beat Azarenka in the quarterfinals of Melbourne and went on to beat Serena Williams in the final to capture her first major title.

Kuznetsova knocked out eight-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round of Miami and survived four straight three-set wins to reach the semifinal.

The 30-year-old Russian at No. 19 in the world has become the lowest ranked finalist since 2005, when No. 38 Kim Clijsters won the Miami title.

Should Kuznetsova win the title, she would return to the top ten. She talked about her tournament so far.

“I just take match by match and I just go,” she said. “It’s one more match. I’ll play with another amazing opponent. I had great wins this week, but one match, it’s a lot. It’s almost like everything. It’s great, you know.

“I start really well playing in Sydney, and then Australian Open didn’t happen to me to play good there. But I still felt I was in good level. Then I kind of mess up with Fed Cup and all that results. It was not good for me.

“I didn’t feel going in that good shape going to the U.S. swing. I was not feeling confident at all. After I had a loss in Indian Wells I tried to work a lot and training every morning a lot just to get confidence back, get my fitness.

“I’m doing better. I’m appreciate, I am blessed I have my body to play so many years and to win against good players, top players. It’s great when things come together. Either way, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s a great week. I’m really pleased and happy the way I fight through all these tournaments and weeks and players.”

On-court after the match, the former French Open and U.S. Open champion said she was happy wrapping up the match in straight sets.

“I am happy that I could hang in there and never let my hands down,” said Kuznetsova.

“I’m happy I’m still able to play against the best in the world. I was praying to finish it in two sets so I would have a little more time to rest.”

 

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

Azarenka advanced during the Thursday night session, improving her record this year to 21-1, not dropping a set during the tournament. Should the Belarusian win, she’d become only the third woman player to win the Indian Wells – Miami double in the same year.

Both Azarenka and Kerber produced hard-hitting shots with very exciting rallies. Azarenka had her serve broken, serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set but won the next two games to close it.

Azarenka broke the German’s serve seven time during the match, hitting 29 winners and only making 16 unforced errors.

“Vika, she is doing amazing,” Kuznetsova said about potentially playing her in the final. “She is extremely prepared. Playing really confident taking all her chances.”

Azarenka is 4-4 against Kuznetsova in head-to-head competition. The last time they faced each other was in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open. Azarenka won the match and went on to win her second straight Melbourne crown.

Kei Nishikori photo courtesy of MiamiTennisNews.com

Kei Nishikori photo courtesy of MiamiTennisNews.com

On the men’s side of the draw, No. 6 Kei Nishikori survived five match points to beat No. 16 Gael Monfils 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) to advance to the semifinals on Thursday. He’ll face No. 24 seed Nick Kyrgios who surprised No. 12 Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(4).

Nishikori was down 4-5, 0-40 before fighting off the Frenchman.

“I was up a break and I had many chances to break again, you know, second time,” said the top player from Japan.

“You know, I just try to focus when I lost the game for 4-All. Actually, I knew something like that was going to be happen, so I was kind of ready and like 50/50.

“But when I was down 4-5, Love-40, I thought, All right, that’s it. Especially the last couple games I wasn’t serving well, so that was — I thought it’s going to be tough to come back. I tried to play one point at time. Yeah, I thought I have to hit the ball to win the points, and I did.

“The tiebreak I was try to be focus again. I saw he was down a little bit, so try to be focus again. Yeah, did pretty good in tiebreak.”

“Then I think at 3-4 I really raise my level,” Monfils said. “I think I start to be very aggressive, start to go for it, and still had the strong feeling that I can make it.

“At the end, I think I push very hard. Then definitely I have opportunity it close it out, but actually Kei played strong. He fought well.

“Actually, I think in the breaker he was just better than me.”

Kyrgios talked about playing Nishikori next: “Obviously Kei is one of the greatest players in the world at the moment. He has an unbelievable return of serve, moves unbelievably fast, hits big from the baseline, doesn’t have many weaknesses.

“When I played him in Shanghai I didn’t really do too much wrong. I played a great match the whole time and he just played a really well in the big moments. I definitely had chances.

“I know what my game plan is going to be. It’s going to be a tough match, but I’m looking forward to it. He’s a great guy.”

For his efforts in Miami, the young Australian’s ranking will move into the top 20.

MIAMI OPEN RESULTS – MARCH 31, 2016
Women’s Singles – Semifinals
[13] V. Azarenka (BLR) d [2] A. Kerber (GER) 62 75
[15] S. Kuznetsova (RUS) d [19] T. Bacsinszky (SUI) 75 63

Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals
[6] K. Nishikori (JPN) d [16] G. Monfils (FRA) 46 63 76(3) – saved 5 m.p.
[24] N. Kyrgios (AUS) d [12] M. Raonic (CAN) 64 76(4)

Men’s Doubles – Semifinals
[5] P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) d [4] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) 63 63
R. Klaasen (RSA) / R. Ram (USA) d T. Huey (PHI) / M. Mirnyi (BLR) 64 62

ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, APRIL 01, 2016
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
ATP – [1] N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [15] D. Goffin (BEL)
WTA – M. Gasparyan (RUS) / M. Niculescu (ROU) vs [4] T. Babos (HUN) / Y. Shvedova (KAZ)

7:00 pm
ATP – [24] N. Kyrgios (AUS) vs [6] K. Nishikori (JPN)
WTA – [3] B. Mattek-Sands (USA) / L. Safarova (CZE) vs [8] Y. Xu (CHN) / S. Zheng (CHN)

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Novak Djokovic to Meet Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells Semifinals

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

(March 18, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – No. 1 Novak Djokovic will face off against No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday.

Djokovic held off No. 7 seed, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(2), 7-6(2) while Nadal stopped No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 6-3 in the earlier semifinal.

Djokovic served for the first set at 5-4, but Tsonga broke serve, but the Serb recovered to win the set in the tiebreak.

“Well, it was definitely very challenging to play in these kind of conditions with Jo that was in form this week,” Djokovic said.

“I thought, you know, being a break up and couple of break points for double break in the first set, you know, I felt playing well, very solid; had the match under control; serving 5-4, 30-Love.

“All of a sudden, not putting a first serve in. He started mixing up with a slice and decided to play a bit different tactically. That got me off a little bit, you know, the balance and the rhythm.

“He started playing better. He started swinging more freely from the forehand corner, especially. Yeah, it was very close.

“But, you know, I take positives out of today’s match, the fact that I have played somebody that was feeling good throughout the week, somebody that serves very, very big and plays very, you know, quick and efficient, precise forehands, you know, that gave me a lot of trouble today to win in straight sets and to win in two tiebreaks, I think it’s gonna help definitely my confidence and, you know, mentally I will take that.”

Djokovic, who earned his 20th win of the year, has only dropped one set during Indian Wells this year and that was to Bjorn Fratangelo.

In an era dominated by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Tsonga was asked to compare them: “They all are really good. I mean, if you have to count Grand Slam, it’s maybe Federer. If you have to count number of title, it’s maybe Federer.

“And then you have two guys who are just amazing. Rafa was the best on clay for 10 years, and Novak, he’s now the actual best player, I think, because he’s No. 1 since a while now. So it’s tough to compare.

“Yeah. Anyway, they will be part of history, and for sure for a long time. Yeah, they’re good players.”

 

 

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

In Nadal’s quarterfinal match, the Spaniard, rallied from a 1-3 deficit in the first set, taking five out of the next six games to close it. Nadal took a break lead in the second set in which his Japanese opponent broke him right back, to make it 4-3 in Nadal’s favor. Nadal won the next two games to seal the match.
“I never thought impossible for Kei playing at this level,” Nadal said. “He’s an amazing player, one of the best players, and he’s able to play at highest level, no?

“He started so quick hitting all the balls very well, very aggressive, and serving great, no?

“Then I think he started to miss some first serves and I was returning very well the second set serve, returning very aggressive. That was so important, I think, in my opinion. The development of the game, no?

“So my return was so important, and at the same time I think I served — my serve was enough good for this match.”
“I think the beginning I was stepping in little more and was hitting using my forehand,” Nishikori said. “My serve was hitting really good serve, first serve, second serve, and maybe he start hitting more deep. I start backing up a little more.

“You know, I think everything changed after, between that first set. Yeah, thought I had couple chances first set and second set, too, but, yeah, some unforced errors. And, yeah, he played good tennis.”

Nadal is set to play Djokovic for a place in the Indian Wells final. He spoke about the potential match-up with the Serb. The last time they played in Doha, Nadal only won three games.

“I think the (Doha) result was so easy. The game was not that easy, no?

“But is obvious that Novak played unbelievable, and when he plays that way, so difficult to stop him. Nothing to say about that match than offer congratulations to him. Tomorrow is another day. He’s a clear favorite because he’s winning all the matches almost every time.

“So I am here to, as I said, enjoy the match of tomorrow, to enjoy the victory of today against a great player. That’s something important for me. Semifinals before the tournament start is a very positive result for me. Tomorrow is an opportunity to play against another top player and enjoy that fact.”

Djokovic talked about the Doha result: “Well, that’s definitely one of the best matches I have played against Rafa. I will try to take a close look at that match and what I have done right.

“But, again, you know, we have to consider the different — completely different conditions. We played in Doha on a bit quicker surface. The balls were not bouncing as high. It was night. It was colder than here.

“Tomorrow is going to be very warm. Ball bounces very high, which he, you know, prefers, because the spin, rotation that he generates with his shots is, you know, really big.

“The court is picking that rotation up here with the bounce. He likes the conditions, actually. We played against each other here several times and always close matches.

“Well, I’m hoping I can deliver my best game tomorrow.”

Djokovic on playing Nadal:

“Well, completely different matchup against most of the players that I play against this week. He’s a great competitor, a great fighter. He’s been getting himself out of trouble a few times this week and showing why he’s one of the best players in the history of the game.

“You know, he never gives up. He always makes you play an extra shot. Always makes you earn the win. You know, I’m going into tomorrow’s match knowing what’s expecting me and I know how to get ready.

“I won the last couple times we played against each other, so maybe that can give me a slight mental advantage coming into the court.”

“But, again, everything is open. It’s semifinals. We both have won multiple times titles here, and hopefully we can come up with some good tennis.”

Nadal goes into his semifinal match against Djokovic with a 23-24 record. The last time Nadal defeated Djokovic was int eh 2014 final of Roland Garros, the French Open.

Djokovic is looking to win a fifth BNP Paribas Open title, while Nadal is looking to get his fourth trophy there.

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Nadal Survives Zverev; Wawrinka Ousted at BNP Paribas Open

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

(March 16, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – No. 5 Rafael Nadal came back from 2-5 down and a match point at 3-5 in third set to take down up-and-coming  18-year-old German No. 58 Alexander Zverev 6-7(8), 6-0, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open.

Zverev had a match point at 5-3 in third, but he hit a forehand olley into the net and never recovered from his mistake. The Spaniard lost only two points in his Last two service games to close the match.

“I had match point, so I think I did well there. On match point I sucked, so that was it,” Zverev said.

“I missed probably the easiest shot I had the whole match. That’s what happened.”

“I think it was a great match. I mean, Rafa did what he does best; he was fighting. I mean, he’s known for that. So, you know, I still had chances to win. I had an easy shot at match point and I missed it.”

“Look, in the last three weeks I lost 7-5 in the third to Berdych; 6-4 in the fifth to Berdych; and 7-5 in the third with match point to Nadal. So I know how tough losses feel right now.

” Look, I mean, I think it was a great match. I mean, Rafa did what he does best; he was fighting. I mean, he’s known for that. So, you know, I still had chances to win. I had an easy shot at match point and I missed it.

“I’m out and he’s in the quarterfinals.”

“Very happy for the victory, obviously,” Nadal said. “I have been fighting during the whole match. First set I had big chance with not a difficult forehand down the line that I missed. So that first set probably will be the key, if I was able to hit that forehand right place, no?

“But after that, I think I played a great second set. But at the beginning, sometimes when win a set that easy is dangerous for the beginning of the next one, no?

“The beginning of the third he played aggressive, and I think I stopped a little bit the rhythm, so I was in trouble, no?

“Was a great victory. You know, it’s obvious that I played against a great player, a player who was serving unbelievable, at the beginning especially. He served well whole match apart from some double faults.

“”But you think when somebody is serving with that speed in the second serve, some double faults are the normal thing, no?

Is a great victory, as I said before. I’m very happy about it. I am especially happy about the mentality on court, the spirit of fight during the whole match, believing that I can win a match during the whole time even in the tougher situations.”

Nadal talked about the adjustments he needed to make against Zverev.

“Well, beginning of the match he was serving over 133 first serves and second serves over 120.

“I was trying to return inside the court, as I did every day, but with the second serve 120 miles with a lot of spin, 124, 123, 120, was impossible, no?

“At the beginning when that happened I was in a little bit of trouble, because I felt like I cannot lose my serve, because if I lose my serve and he was serving that way, is impossible. So I felt a little bit the pressure at the beginning.

“But then I think I returned really well during the whole match, no? First serve. Second serve I decided to go back three, four meters behind the baseline, because from inside he was — he’s young, ready to take the risks, and if the opponent wants to take the risk on the second serve and he’s having success, it’s difficult to make something, no?

“”I decided to go back and tried to put more balls in, and I think worked well. I think I had enough breaks to win the match.

“Negative thing is I lost my serve twice in the third, something that cannot happen, especially after having the break back. But that’s it. No, no, no, the match was tough. I think any player can win, and is true he had a big chance with match point and that volley.

“Sorry for him. I think at the same time, I deserve victory like this after couple of loses with big chances to win, too.”

Belgian’s David Goffin, ranked 18th in the world, stunned third seed Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) to reach the quarterfinals of Inidan Wells on Wednesday. The victory for Goffin ended a 14- match losing streak against top 10 players.

Wawrinka came back from 0-4 down in the second set to 4-4. Goffin served for the match at 5-4, but failed to close and Wawrinka won the next three games to even the match at a set all. In the third set, Goffin against served for the match and could not hold. The match went on to tiebreak. Wawrinka hit a crucial overhead out at 5-5 to give Goffin match point which capitalized on.

There were 13 breaks of serve in the match.

“I was struggling with my serve and it was difficult with the heat,” Goffin said in press. “In the third, it’s tough to fight again with the heat and with the level of Stan. The tiebreaker is like you flip a coin.”

“Well, not too great day, not too great level,” Wawrinka said smiling. “I didn’t have the rhythm yet. Was a match without brain, let’s put it that way.

“Have some tough time to focus, have some tough time to find what I wanted to play and stay calm. Still try to fight. Got lucky to come back twice. Had the chance to finish the tiebreak. I didn’t, and quite simple.”

“I think he got a bit tired and nervous also,” Wawrinka continued. “He start to miss easy shots. Gave me the chance to come back. Can lose quickly, eh?

“Two time I come back. I had the chance in the third set to finish it also at 5-5 to break him again. I didn’t. I didn’t.

“But in general, he deserved to win. You know, it was the time of. Should have finish before.”
Goffin will play No. 10 seed Marin Cilic, who defeated No. 8 Richard Gasquet, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. Another upset saw No. 12 Milos Raonic beat No. 6 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (7).

“A match where you sort of say you felt great but you went out there and you tried to put the pieces together, Raonic said.

“I got ahead a few service games. He served well. He got ahead. I served well. That was pretty much only one point that I would sort of have played differently. Maybe just be a little bit sharper in the second serves in the beginning service games.

“Other than that, it was all good.”

Top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic advanced easily. Williams defeated defending champion Simona Halep 6-4, 6-3.

“It feels really good to get that win,” Williams said. “She obviously has been in good form the past couple years. So, yeah, I feel really good just to get under there and buckle down and to win that.

No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who will move up to No. 2 in the rankings, defeated Petra Kvitova 6-2, 7-6 (3) to reach the semifinals. She’ll face Serena Williams in the semifinals.

Asked about returning to No. 2 in the world, Radwanska said: “It’s always a good feeling to be back in this position. I wasn’t long last time, but I think that was a few years ago. It’s always good to be back in that position. Now it’s difficult to be No. 1.

“There is always opportunity, but it’s not about one or two tournaments. To be No. 1 you really have to play the whole season very good, and obviously catch Serena. But she is also playing very good tennis and she will want to play good and be there at No. 1.

“Well, I will try my best, and now I have the opportunity that I’m definitely not really defending much points till the grass, so, well, that’s definitely my spot that I can do that. We’ll see if I can.”

Williams said of the match-up: “She knows how to play in big stadiums and big matches, big games.

“Obviously she does everything so well, including running, and this is a good surface for her because it’s a slow surface. I think I expect there will be a lot of long rallies.

“Honestly, I will be ready. I really like Aga on and off the court. I think she’s super exciting to watch on the court, and off the court I think she’s really one of the nicest people.

“Regardless, I think it will be a really good matchup. Whoever wins will go into the final.”

Novak Djokovic defeated Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.

“I’m actually glad to have a match like this with not much complications,” Djokovic said.

“I think we both started to play well on our service games, and he was 30-Love on that game when I broke him. Then he missed four first serves. I managed to step in and return very well on those four second serves that I got and just used the opportunity.

“You know, after that I was feeling more comfortable also on the return games even though Feliciano is a very difficult player to play against. He’s left handed and he has a big first serve and he can hit angles, comes to the net, so very strong, physically moves well.

“But I was very solid. I didn’t allow him to come to the net too many times. It was a good performance.”

Kei Nishikori beat John Isner 1-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) plays Nadal in the quarterfinals.

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Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori Advance to Fourth Round of Indian Wells

Nadal at net

(March 15, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal had an easy first set but had to save 5 set points it the second set tiebreak to defeat Spanish countryman and doubles partner Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 7-6(9) in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.

Verdasco only won 13 points in the first set, making 14 unforced errors. He made a total of 38 errors in the match.

Verdasco took a 6-3 lead in the second set tiebreak. Nadal saved three set points and saved another two. Nadal won the match on his second match point.

“I lost matches similar to this one in Australia, in Bueno Aires, in Rio de Janeiro, so it’s important winning sets like this for me like the other day in the third, today in the second,” Nadal said in press.

“You know, I have to go through these things, no? I played a great first set, very good quality of tennis, I think. No mistakes. That’s important for me. Serving very well; returning very well.

“Then having some mistakes in the beginning of the second, especially with the serve, then distract my concentration, distract my confidence, and I was suffering at the end of the second set, too, no?

“I know arriving to a tiebreak against a player like Verdasco normally he serve better than me. You know, normally in these kind of match I have more to lose than him, so he’s able to play very aggressive. He has an amazing shots, no? He arrives to the tiebreak and you know you’re in trouble.

“Feel lucky to win the tiebreak, and at the same time I think at the end of the tiebreak I played well with not many mistakes and going for the points.

“So is an important victory for me. Two matches wins here, tough ones. That’s something that stays in my mind and helps.”

The three-time champion of Indian Wells will face -off against Alexander Zverev for a place in the quarterfinals.

Zverev dismissed 16th seed Gilles Simon easily 6-2, 6-2 on Stadium 3 to reach the fourth round. The up-and-coming 18-year-old German is ranked No. 58th.

“Well, I thought I played really well today,” said the German. “I think I was really aggressive. Hit a lot of winners.

“You know, beating someone like Gilles 6-2, 6-2 is something that gives me a lot of confidence for myself. He’s such a great player and such a tough competitor, as well.

“You know, I was really ready for a long, long fight and a long three-set match and that was that quick.

“You know, I’m really happy that I got through so quickly.”

“I think against someone like Gilles you really have to be aggressive even more than against other players, and that’s, I think, what I did and worked out really well,” Zverev added.

“I had a great day today. You know, someone like Gilles, if you don’t hit him off the court he’s gonna be tough to beat. He’s gonna be running and fighting all day.

“So, you know, I knew what I had to do, and I think I did it pretty well.”

Zverev talked about playing Nadal:
“Rafa, he’s one of the greatest in the sport ever winning 14 slams. He’s probably one of greatest fighters ever, so it would be a big honor to play against someone like him.”

Nadal discussed his match-up against the young German: “He’s a clear possible future No. 1. He’s an amazing player. He has all the shots. Very good physical performance. Tall, good serve, first and second, great shots from the baseline, forehand and backhand.

“He has everything to become big star and he’s playing well. He won already matches against Dimitrov, against Simon today. So I don’t know the other matches he won. Against who? Dodig? So three very good matches, no?

“Going to be a very tough match tomorrow for me, and I have to be ready to fight, to suffer, and to try to play aggressive. That’s what I gonna try, no? Try to put a high rhythm and let’s see. I know going to be a very tough match. I happy the way I played today the first set, so if I can keep going the same way tomorrow, I hope to have my chances.”

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

No. 5 seed Kei Nishkori battled past 30th seed Steve Johnson 7-6(6), 7-6(5) to reach the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday.

Steve Johnson led 6-2 in the first set tiebreak, before something got into his eye and whatever it was he could not get it out. He proceeded to lose the next six points to lose the set.

 

Nishikori will take on John Isner next. Isner defeated Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 7-6(3). Nishikori talked about the match-up against the hard-serving American: “The key will be on the return. My return, it’s going to be the key, for sure. I have to return well.

“I couldn’t really step in today, so I tried to play more aggressive tomorrow, and, you know, try to be patient. He’s a big guy and I think I have more advantage on my groundstrokes, so try to use more forehands and play more aggressive.”

During his match Isner hit 15 aces and did not lose any first serve points.

Isner on playng Nishikori: “Prior to last year I had never played him, which was pretty odd, because we have been in the same tournaments for a very long time.

“Now it seems like that’s starting to correct itself a little bit. This is the third time I’m going to play him in about a year.

“In the Miami match I played an excellent match, one of the best matches I have played all year, hands down. Maybe “the” best match I played all year. Against him in Miami was a very good day for me.

“In the Washington final I thought both of us played pretty well. He was obviously better than me. He won it in three sets. We have been pretty evenly matched in our first two contests. We have a rubber match coming up tomorrow. It will be fun.

“This is the third time, all on hard courts, in America, so it’s a good situation for me. But at the same time, going up against someone as at Kei’s level and stature, I will need to play very well to win. He he’s a fantastic player and he’s been doing it for a very long time.”

Feliciano Lopez, the 18th seed defeated Spanish countryman and 14th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(5), 6-7(10), 6-4 in three hours and 15 minutes to reach the fourth round.

 

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Kei Nishikori Four-Peats at Memphis Open

nishikori memphis

(February 14, 2016) Kei Nishikori captured his fourth straight Memphis Open title on Sunday beating 18-year-old American Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-4. The man from Japan now joins Hall of Famer Jimmy Connors as the only four-time winners of the event. In addition, Nishikori joins Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in winning a single tournament four times.

“It’s amazing to win four in a row,” Nishikori said. “I tried not to think about it too much this week. I didn’t feel a lot of pressure. It was a tough start again today, but I managed it better. I played better tennis as the match went on and I’m happier with the second set. I only gave him a few points on my serve in the last few games.

“We practiced five or six times the past few years in California, so I know how he plays. I never beat him before, so I was happy to beat him in a match. I tried different tactics to make him move more. He has very good reach so it’s not easy to hit winners, especially on these slow courts. I had to finish the points strong with my legs. He was tough to play.

“I felt a lot of support even here in the US against an American. A lot of Japanese came out today.”
 
“I definitely didn’t expect to get to a (ATP World Tour) final so quickly,” Fritz said. “It’s a great accomplishment to get here despite losing in the final. I had a great week and I have to be happy with the result. I have a lot of confidence moving forward. I need to get my body stronger and I can continue to play at this level.

“He started off a little tentative and was leaving some balls for me to step in and hit. He was making some mistakes, but he loosened up and started playing much better. After a couple games, the balls get heavier and are tough to put away. Kei’s such a fast player and incredible from the baseline and when I don’t have that to put the ball away, he got extremely tough.”

This is Nishikori’s 11th ATP World Tour title.

For the young American Fritz, it was a career week playing in just his third ATP tour-level event. The teenager will move into the top 100 after becoming just the fifth 18-year-old American to reach an ATP World Tour final in the past 30 years joining Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Andy Roddick, and Pete Sampras.

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Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer Set Up Semifinal Clash at the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

(January 26, 2016) Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will clash in the semifinals of the Australian Open as both men advanced with straight set victories on Tuesday.

The No. 3 seed Federer moved into his 12th Australian Open semifinal beating Tomas Berdych 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4. No. 1 seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic bested No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the night session in Rod Laver Arena.

“I think I played well overall,” said the 17-time major champion. “You know, wished maybe I didn’t get a break here or there. At the same time Tomas was pushing for it, he was looking for it, so clearly it can happen.

“He’s got a lot of power. He knows how to do it. So I was happy that on both occasions, first and third, I was able to react quickly. The second set, when I did have the break, I was able to roll with it.

“Yeah, I think the first set was tough. It was the one that took the longest, had the most importance of all the sets, in my opinion. It was definitely key to the rest of the match because I think it maybe might’ve taken some energy out of Tomas. Who knows? If not physical, also mental. It’s always tough to lose the first set in best of five in a breaker in my opinion.”

The match was the 80th win at the Australian Open for Federer. He became the oldest player at 34, since Colin Dibley at 35 to reach the semifinals at Melbourne.

Djokovic is hoping to win the tournament for a record sixth time – only Rod Laver has accomplished that feat.

For the 28-year-old Djokovic this will be his 29th Grand Slam semifinal and sixth in Melbourne. The Serbian has gone on to win the tournament the each of the five previous times he’s reached the final four.

228 Federer smiles-001

Federer was asked about what it would mean to him to win one more major in the “Djokovic” era: “I mean, a lot, yeah. It’s part of the reason why I guess I’m still playing. I feel like I’m competitive at the top. I can beat all the guys on tour. It’s nice now that in the last three slams that I’ve been as consistent as I have been.

“I’m playing good tennis, fun tennis for me anyway. I really enjoy being able to come to the net more like back in the day. So I’m very pleased.

“It would mean a lot to me, no doubt about it.”

“Roger is playing really terrific tennis in last two years,” Djokovic said as he’ll play the Swiss for the 45th time in his career on Thursday. “We played two Grand Slam finals last year. I know very well how good he plays, especially in the later stages of a major event.

“He always makes you play your best. My best is what is going to be necessary to win against him. Hopefully I’ll be able to deliver.”

 

“It’s obvious that he’s a very complete player. He’s trying lately to come to the net more, kind of shorten up the rallies. I mean, he definitely has the game for that. He’s got a great variation from the backhand side with the slice, short slice. He’s got great defense, amazing offense. He’s very complete. He puts constant pressure on the opponent. You have to be aware at all times. You got to be tough. You got to be concentrated.”

Djokovic and Federer are tied in their head-to-head record at 22-22.

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Djokovic Survives Five Set Test Against Simon; Federer Cruises Past Goffin to Reach Australian Open Quarterfinals

(January 24, 2016) Novak Djokovic survived a five-set test from Gilles Simon, while Roger Federer routed David Goffin to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Sunday.

No. 1 Djokovic made 100 unforced errors in his 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win in four hours, 32 minutes over Simon.

“I made a lot of unforced errors today,” Djokovic said after the win. “Nevertheless, he was fighting. He was playing well. Physically very demanding. I’m just happy to get through this one.”

The defending champion’s victory puts him in his 27 consecutive quarterfinal at a major equaling Jimmy Connors and behind Roger Federer with 36.

“These are the tournaments that we value the most and to be able to always come up with the best performance in the Grand Slams, of course I’m very proud of it and hopefully I can keep going,” Djokovic said.

“I don’t feel good,” Simon said about the loss.

“It’s always a bad feeling when you lose in five also. Always like when you play so long, you feel so many things are happening on the court. So many things could have been different. Just had, like, couldn’t make it today.”

“Gilles is a great defender,” the world No. 1 explained. “Always makes you play an extra shot. You have days like this, but fortunately you manage to fight your way through. I think in important moments the serve was getting me out of trouble. That’s what I take as a positive from today.”

No. 7 Kei Nishikori will be playing Djokovic in the quarterfinals. He defeated No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

“It’s gonna be big challenge to play Novak, for sure,” said Nishikori.

So what’s the most difficult thing when playing Djokovic?

I think the biggest thing is he doesn’t miss,” Nishikori said. “He doesn’t give you easy points, any free points. I have to, you know, be the one to dictate. I think he’s serving well, too.

“It always makes tough player.”

Nishikori upset Djokovic in the 2014 semifinals at the U. S. Open.

“That (win) gives me a lot of confidence to play against him again, but we played in London and he, you know, kind of destroy me,” explained Nishikori. “It wasn’t easy match for me. It’s different condition, but I hope I can make some changes and try to play better.

“Yeah. I’m ready to beat him again.”

Roger Federer’s win over David Goffin lasted less than 90 minutes with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 score.

“It was good,” Federer said. “Surprised it went as fast as it did. You know, to win the first two sets within 50 minutes is the best thing that can happen out there, especially with a late start and against a quality player. So I was very happy.

“It was important to keep the momentum going, keep staying aggressive and, you know, trying to get the match done in three. I was able to do that. I was very pleased.

“There were some great moments in the match which I can take a lot away from. I was happy to, which after the Dimitrov match, which wasn’t so straightforward, wasn’t so easy, I was able to find an extra gear, I guess.”

Federer will match up against No. 6 Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. Berdych defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

“I have to play well,” said the Swiss about his upcoming match against the Czech. “I think the court suits him. I think this sort of flatter bounce and faster court is good for his serves, good for his returns. It’s a fast court. I think for his kind of game it’s good.

“I think I matched up well against him as of late. Then again, we haven’t played that much. He played very well here last year in exactly these conditions. I was very impressed how he played against Nick (Kyrgios). Today I didn’t see that much against Bautista Agut. It was about switching to a different court, day session, beating a different kind of player, beating him in five sets, which gives him, I’m sure, a lot of confidence, as well, even though maybe the scoreline doesn’t suggest that.

“I would assume he’s exactly where he wants to be and he’ll recover and make it a tough match for me, no doubt about it.

“It’s going to be a good match. We’re both going to play aggressive. This court pays off when you do play good and aggressive tennis.”

“I think he’s playing really well, especially in the last season,” Berdych said of his next opponent. “He’s become a very, very danger(ous) opponent, as always he is. I mean, it’s always difficult to say something else or something new. I mean, it’s Roger, so it’s always going to be a huge challenge to play him. It’s the quarterfinal of a slam.

“Yeah, I like it. I like my chances. I’m just looking forward to that match.”

 

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