By Bob Greene
Sony Open Tennis
Key Biscayne (Miami), Florida, USA
Men’s singles: Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-3
Women’s singles: Serena Williams beat Li Na 7-5 6-1
Men’s doubles: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 7-6 (8) 6-4
Women’s doubles: Martina Hingis and Sabine Lisicki beat Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Venina 4-6 6-4 10-5 (match tiebreak)
Gilles Muller beat Denis Kudla 6-2 6-2 to win the Zurich Jalisco Open in Guadalajara, Mexico
“I played a great match, from the start to the end everything was working really well.” – Novak Djokovic, after dominating Rafael Nadal in the Sony Open Tennis men’s singles final.
“In no other tournament have I lost this many finals, but it’s always a very special tournament to me. The energy and passion from the crowd is unforgettable.” – Rafael Nadal, who was runner-up at Key Biscayne for the fourth time.
“This crowd is amazing. I have so many friends and so many fans here, and I love, love, love playing in this crowd. It just feels really, really good to play at home. There’s really no better feeling.” – Serena Williams, who won a record seventh Key Biscayne title.
“I don’t think I was playing bad. Maybe she just start a little bit better after 5-2 down.” – Li Na, who won only one of the final 14 games while losing to Serena Williams.
“This is incredible for us, especially to win in such a hostile environment. There were a lot of Colombians out there. They were bringing the noise. Juan and Robert should play Davis Cup here because the Colombian fans are loud. They had the flags out.” – Bob Bryan, after he and brother Mike beat Colombian pair Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the men’s doubles final.
“Just couldn’t find my rhythm on the serve, which was surprising. Maybe the (cool, mid-60s) temperature had something to do with it. Haven’t played that many matches in the dark. It’s a bit frustrating, but Kei did well to stay with me. He was more consistent in the second and the third, which are the ones he won. To his credit.” – Roger Federer, following his loss to Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals at Miami.
“Yeah, it was second time to beat him. I was hitting balls deep and striking well. And I was fighting.” – Kei Nishikori, who now holds a 2-1 career record over Roger Federer.
“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. There is no reason for me to have any pressure because of my results against her. She’s an incredible champion. That’s the reason she’s at the top.” – Maria Sharapova, after losing her 15th consecutive match to Serena Williams.
“I have always felt when I’m playing at my best, then it’s hard for people to beat me. But I have to get there, and it’s hard to always be at your best.” – Serena Williams.
“Was really playing well and beating (Grigor) Dimitrov, David (Ferrer) and Roger (Federer), I was really excited to play here. But unfortunately I couldn’t move side-to-side. Just tried to warm up today, but I couldn’t move.” – Kei Nishikori, who withdrew with a groin injury from his semifinal match against Novak Djokovic.
“I had a few game plans. I wanted to get out there and see what works the best. He serves and likes to move to the backhand corner. He runs around his backhand, so that he opens the court for his opponent on forehand side.” – Novak Djokovic, on playing Rafael Nadal.
It was no contest when Novak Djokovic took on Rafael Nadal in the Sony Open men’s singles final. And the super Serb, who is ranked second in the world behind Nadal, took no prisoners as he blasted his Spanish opponent to win the Key Biscayne tournament for the fourth time. “I played a great match, everything was working really well,” Djokovic said. “I didn’t give him a chance to come back in the match. I am really excited.” He should be. Djokovic blasted five aces and dominated with his serve and huge ground strokes. It was the Serb who controlled most of the points, moving Nadal from side to side before ripping winners. “He was better than me in everything,” Nadal said. “He was able to find the right spot, the right position. Playing against him is the worst thing that can happen to me because he has a better return than mine, he has a better serve than my one, especially on this surface.” Djokovic moved ahead when he broke Nadal in the fifth game of the opening set, taking a 3-2. He closed out the set by serving a love game, then broke Nadal again to open the second set. “I just started swinging freely and had good percentages on my first serves,” Djokovic said. “He had a hard time reading my serve.” It was Djokovic’s second straight Masters title, having won two weeks ago at Indian Wells, California, USA. It was the second time he had pulled off the Indian Wells-Key Biscayne double, matching Roger Federer as the only two to achieve the feat. It was the Serb’s 43rd tour-level title and 18th at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 level. Djokovic is now 14th on the all-time title winners list, one behind Thomas Muster. He also passed Andre Agassi for third on the all-time Masters 1000 titles list.
Li Na is the reigning Australian Open champion and won at Indian Wells earlier this month. She is behind only Serena Williams in the WTA Tour rankings. So it may not have been a great surprise when she grabbed a 5-2 lead in the first set of the women’s singles final at Key Biscayne. Li was to win only one more game as Williams captured her unprecedented seventh Key Biscayne title. “Oh, I definitely don’t do it on purpose,” Williams said of the slow start. “I don’t know. Maybe I get a little nervous because I want to do so well, and I want to – I just want to win, and then sometimes if you get too nervous you’re not able to play.” Even in defeat, Li thought she played well. “I think it was a pretty good match,” Li said. “I don’t think today I was doing like a wrong game plan or I was playing totally wrong. Yeah, that’s what I think.” Williams increased her Key Biscayne record total. Last year she moved ahead of Steffi Graf, who held the previous record with five. Serena is one of only four players to win the same WTA event seven or more times, joining Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Graf. Asked how she managed to turn the match around after trailing 5-2, Williams said: “At that moment I felt like I had nothing to lose, and I was able to relax. And whenever I relax, I enjoy myself.”
What if they played the semifinals and nobody showed up. That’s exactly what happened at the Sony Open when the men were to battle the penultimate round. Novak Djokovic was the first to gain a spot in the final without striking a ball when his semifinal opponent, Kei Nishikori, withdrew from the hard-court tournament with a groin injury. A few hours later, Tomas Berdych announced he was withdrawing from his semifinal against Rafael Nadal because of gastroenteritis. Fans at the Key Biscayne, Florida, tournament were left to watch two women’s doubles matches. There was an angry chorus of boos when it was announced that the Nadal-Berdych match would not be played. “Sorry for Kei. Sorry for Tomas. Sorry for the tournament. Especially sorry for the fans,” Nadal said. “It’s very unlucky, very unusual for something that can happen. “I cannot remember that (ever happening).” It hadn’t. This was the first time in the Open Era – since 1968 – that an ATP World Tour event had no semifinal matches.
Martina Hingis won enough tournaments during her career that she earned entry into the International Tennis Hall of Fame following her retirement. Now she’s back on the WTA Tour – and winning again. Now 33 years old, Hingis teamed with Sabine Lisicki to win the Sony Open women’s doubles title by defeating the Russian pair of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. Gaining a spot in the draw with a wild card, the Hingis-Lisicki team won the last seven points of the super tiebreaker to capture the trophy. Hingis had been retired for nearly six years when she returned to play doubles in last year, entering five events with Daniela Hantuchova. Following the US Open, Hingis didn’t play against until earlier this month at Indian Wells with Lisicki. The Sony Open was her 38th WTA doubles title, but first since Doha in 2007.
When a suspicious package was found at the Sony Open, the tournament was locked down while the Miami-Dade Police Department bomb squad investigated. That meant thousands of spectators were prevented from entering or leaving the sprawling tennis complex. Four-lane traffic in both directions in front of the complex was halted. “Earlier this evening a suspicious package was left unattended at the front gate,” the tournament said in a statement. “For the safety of the public the Miami-Dade police have set up a perimeter and cordoned off the area until the package can be secured. We apologize for the inconvenience but the safety of the public must be placed first.” An all-clear was given some 30 minutes after officials had confirmed the lockdown. Security has been beefed up around major North American sporting events since last year’s Boston marathon bombings left three people dead and wounded 264.
Match after match, Dominika Cibulkova is proving she belongs with the top players in women’s tennis. The Slovakian has moved into the Top 10 in the rankings after reaching the semifinals of the Sony Open with a 3-6 7-6 (5) 6-3 victory over third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, including staving off three match points. “I knew before the match that this was the match I needed to win to become top 10,” Cibulkova said. “So it was some more pressure, but I’m obviously very happy with the way I handled it today.” But the tournament’s 10th seed had the misfortune of running into China’s Li Na in the semifinals – and losing. Cibulkova also lost to Li in the Australian Open final and in the quarterfinals at Indian Wells, California, USA, earlier in the month.
American twins Bob and Mike Bryan won their 96th title as a team, the Sony Open, with a 7-6 (8) 6-4 pounding of the Colombian duo of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. It took only 90 minutes for the Bryans to capture their 28th ATP World Tour Masters level crown and their third at Miami, but first since 2008. It was the third title in five weeks for the brothers and their first Indian Wells-Miami double. The won their second BNP Paribas Open title earlier this month. “This is a match we’ll remember for a long time,” Mike Bryan said. “The crowd support was unreal for both teams. The first set was pivotal and it was huge to save those set points. Bob and I are very excited to play so well and win Miami again for a third time.” Cabal and Farah were the first South American team to reach the Miami final in tournament history. It was their fifth final as a team in 2014, their lone championship coming in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February. They also reached the final in Brisbane, Vina del Mar and Sao Paulo.
The top two players in the WTA ranking have more in common than just playing winning tennis. Both Serena Williams and Li Na are 32 years old, almost ancient in tennis terms. Both have sparkled this year, with Li winning her second Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open in January, and the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, USA, earlier this month. In beating Li in the Sony Open final, Williams improved her career record against her Chinese opponent to 12-1. The American has been as dominant in her career against the other top players on the women’s tour. She is 8-0 against third-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, 14-3 against fourth-ranked Victoria Azarenka and 16-2 against seventh-ranked Maria Sharapova. Williams has lost just twice this year – to Ana Ivanovic at the Australian Open and to Alize Cornet at Dubai. Following their Sony Open match, which Williams won 7-5 6-1, the two were seen giggling. “We’re playing great tennis and we’re number one and number 2, and we’re both the same age,” Williams said. “For me it was just an honor to be there with her. We’re living the same life, and at this stage, to be on top, I don’t think it’s been done before, and I think it’s really awesome. … I feel like we both have his never-give-up fight. It shows that you can still shine at any age.”
Alex Dolgopolov has joined Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych in the field for the AEGON Championships at The Queen’s Club, a grass-court warm-up event for Wimbledon. Dolgopolov has beaten three of the four highest ranked player in the world this year in rising from 57th in the rankings at the end of 2013 to 23rd. His highest ranking was 13th in the world, but Dolgopolov says he’s playing better tennis now. This year he holds victories over Rafael Nadal, Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka and David Ferrer. The tournament is scheduled to be played June 9-15.
Former Swedish tennis pro Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer has been appointed vice chairman of the Enshrinee Nomination Committee at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The committee develops the annual ballot of nominees for enshrinement in Hall of Fame, located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. The committee is chaired by five-time major champion Stan Smith and is comprised of 22 individuals from all aspects of the sport, including former players, journalists, historians and administrators. One of the founders of the WTA, Lofdahl-Bentzer was ranked in the top 15 in the world in the 1970s and was Sweden’s top-ranked player. She won five STA Tour titles and was a member of the Swedish Fed Cup team for eight years. She currently serves on the Fed Cup Committee.
Guadalajara: Cesar Ramirez and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela beat Andre Begemann and Matthew Ebden 6-4 6-2
Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$644,900 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay
$500,000 Abierto Monterrey presentado por Afirme, Monterrey, Mexico, hard
Japan vs. Czech Republic at Tokyo, Japan, hard
France vs. Germany at Nancy, France, hard
Italy vs. Great Britain at Naples, Italy, clay
Switzerland vs. Kazakhstan at Geneva, Switzerland, hard
Americas Zone: Ecuador vs. Brazil at Guayaquil, Ecuador, clay; Colombia vs. Dominican Republic at Cali, Columbia, clay
Asia/Oceania Zone: China vs. Uzbekistan at Tianjin, China, hard; South Korea vs. India at Busan, South Korea, hard
Europe/Africa Zone: Poland vs. Croatia at Warsaw, Poland, hard; Slovenia vs. Israel at Portoroz, Slovenia, clay; Sweden vs. Ukraine at Malmo, Sweden, hard; Slovak Republic vs. Austria at Bratislava, Slovak Republic, hard
Americas Zone: Barbados vs. El Salvador at St. Michael, Barbados, hard; Mexico vs. Peru at Puebla, Mexico, hard
Asia/Oceania Zone: Philippines vs. Pakistan at Manila, Philippines, clay; Thailand vs. Kuwait at Nonthaburi, Thailand, hard
Europe/Africa Zone: South Africa vs. Lithuania at Centurion, South Africa, hard; Finland vs. Bosnia/Herzegovina at Helsinki, Finland, hard; Moldova vs. Belarus at Chisinau, Moldova, clay; Denmark vs. Luxembourg at Hillerod, Denmark, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$586,650 Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco, clay
$474,005 Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship, Houston, Texas, USA, clay
$250,000 BNP Paribas Katowice Open, Katowice, Poland, hard
$250,000 Copa Claro Colsanitas, Bogota, Colombia, clay