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Djokovic/Troicki Fall To Mektic/Peya In Miami Opener

  • Posted: Mar 23, 2018

Djokovic/Troicki Fall To Mektic/Peya In Miami Opener

Djokovic to open bid for seventh singles title on Friday

Novak Djokovic missed last year’s Miami Open presented by Itau for the first time since his debut in 2006 due to an elbow injury. On Thursday, he marked his return as he stepped out on the doubles court with countryman Viktor Troicki. The Serbians took the opening set after rallying from 1-4 down to start the match, but ultimately fell to Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya 4-6, 7-5, 10-3 after 83 minutes.

While Djokovic may have dropped his doubles opener, in singles he has been close to invincible at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, winning 16 straight matches and 30 of the past 31. He opens his campaign for a record seventh Miami title on Friday against Frenchman Benoit Paire.

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Mektic and Peya, finalists this year in Rio and Sofia, next play No. 2 seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers. The reigning Nitto ATP Finals champions picked up their first match win since the Australian Open as they prevailed against Dutchmen Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop 6-3, 3-6, 10-6.

John Isner, who claimed the BNP Paribas Open title last week alongside Jack Sock, teamed up with another American, Donald Young, for a 6-4, 7-6(1) win over Kyle Edmund and Nenad Zimonjic. Sock is playing with Nicholas Monroe this week.

Brothers Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev notched their team’s first victory of the season as they defeated Santiago Gonzalez and Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, a pair of Russian youngsters, 21-year-old Karen Khachanov and 20-year-old Andrey Rublev, fought to close out a 6-7(3), 6-3, 15-13 win over Fabrice Martin and Franko Skugor.


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Federer Recounts 'Horrible Match' From Miami Debut

  • Posted: Mar 23, 2018

Federer Recounts ‘Horrible Match’ From Miami Debut

Swiss to open 17th campaign against #NextGenATP Aussie Kokkinakis

Roger Federer remembers well his first professional match at Crandon Park, home to the Miami Open presented by Itau for the last time in 2018. It was 1999, the Swiss star’s first season on the ATP World Tour and he was handed a wild card into the tournament in which he drew Denmark’s Kenneth Carlsen.

Federer, then No. 125 in the ATP Rankings, lost that first-round match 7-5, 7-6(4). The Dane would go on to beat Goran Ivanisevic in the next round before Francisco Clavet ended his run.

Only a year prior, Federer had won the prestigious Orange Bowl junior championships. He would later claim the 1998 junior Wimbledon title on his way to ending the year as the World No. 1 junior.

“I mean, I was excited,” Federer said. “I don’t know when I found out that I was going to get the wild card for the ’99 Miami Open. That was a big deal. Unfortunately I played a horrible match, terrible attitude in that match, lost first round.

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“But in the juniors, I played some great players. I remember beating [David] Nalbandian in the semis and [Guillermo] Coria in the finals on this very court. Yeah, my memories of Key Biscayne go way back.

“I guess I finished as World No. 1 junior after winning that final. I needed to win to clinch it. Then after that I figured, well… who knows? I could become World No. 1 in the pros but still a long way away, but you start to have a dream, and I think it helped me to win the Orange Bowl here in that year.”

Three times the Swiss has gone on to claim the Miami title in his career, including in 2017 when he defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the final. He will open his 17th campaign against #NextGen Australian qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis.

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The 36-year-old arrives in Miami on the back of a thrilling final defeat to Juan Martin Del Potro in Indian Wells, where three championship points slipped from his grasp. It snapped his career-best start to a season (17-0).

“It always takes a few days to recover from a busy and high-intensity weekend,” Federer said. “Regardless of how difficult the match was physically, you still have a letdown emotionally, because you’re drained from that perspective… You’re emotionally drained after every final, regardless if you win or lose.

“I’m happy about how I played and how I felt afterwards. Didn’t take me a whole lot of time to get over it, to be honest, because I felt like it could have gone either way. Unfortunately I wasn’t on the winner’s side because maybe I have had enough luck throughout the last 14 months on my side of the court, so it’s OK to lose some.”

Despite Nadal’s absence from the tournament, Federer must reach at least the quarter-finals to retain his grip on the No. 1 ATP Ranking. It remains among his greatest motivators. 

“Winning tournaments, I guess trying to stay world No. 1,” he said. “At this point, because I’m so close, everything is so tight. Stay injury-free, enjoy myself, try to beat the best players that are out there.

“Yeah, that’s it. And just enjoy it from that perspective. Then obviously there is a lot of family and friends and that stuff, the more important things that I care a lot about.”


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Miami Open: Simona Halep defeats Oceane Dodin in second round

  • Posted: Mar 22, 2018

World number one Simona Halep fought back from a set down to defeat France’s Oceane Dodin in the second round of the Miami Open.

The 26-year-old Romanian beat the world number 98 3-6 6-3 7-6.

Halep received treatment on her neck twice during the match and eventually rallied to win in two hours and seven minutes.

She will face Agnieszka Radwanska next after the Pole beat Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

German 10th seed Angelique Kerber breezed past Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 6-2 6-2, while Czech Karolina Pliskova beat Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 7-5.

In the women’s doubles, British duo Heather Watson and Johanna Konta reached the second round with a 6-2 4-6 10-3 win over America’s Nicole Melichar and Czech Kveta Peschke.

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Determined Halep overcomes Dodin

Halep, who reached the semi-finals in Indian Wells last week, created two break opportunities in a five-minute long opening game.

She was unable to take advantage and it was Dodin who got the first break of the game as a Halep backhand drifted out.

Halep broke back straight away but looked below par, and she was broken at 4-2 before the Frenchwoman served out the set at the third attempt.

A trainer was called for Halep during the changeover as she struggled with her neck and again after Dodin broke back to level the second set.

She came out on top in a scrappy second set but received a warning in the third set when, trailing 2-1 and facing a break point, she threw her racquet to the ground in frustration.

A break in the 11th game of the final set was enough for Halep to secure victory, while Dodin was left to rue 16 double faults.

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Shapovalov Made To Work On Miami Debut

  • Posted: Mar 22, 2018

Shapovalov Made To Work On Miami Debut

#NextGenATP players out in force at Crandon Park

#NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov was made to work hard on Thursday as he made a winning start on his Miami Open presented by Itau debut. The 18-year-old led Viktor Troicki of Serbia 5-1 in the third set and required six match points to wrap up a 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-6(6) victory in two hours and 27 minutes. He’ll now prepare to meet No. 24 seed Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia & Herzegovina in the second round.

Troicki, who reached the fourth round in 2009 and 2011, lost six first-service points in the first two sets, but Shapovalov regained the momentum by winning four games in a row from 1-1 in the decider. The World No. 46 then failed to convert two match point opportunities at 5-1 and, in a tense end to the third set, Troicki worked his way back – recovering from 0/40 and a further three match points in the 10th game. The pair’s second meeting (2017 Rolex Shanghai Masters) was decided on a tie-break, which saw Shapovalov win the first three points.

Watch Hot Shot: Troicki Strikes Backhand Pass

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Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka started his Miami campaign in confident fashion by beating #NextGenATP Australian qualifier Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-4 in 77 minutes. He will now square-off against tenth-seeded Czech and 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych, who Nishioka beat en route to the 2017 BNP Paribas Open fourth round.

Elsewhere, Spanish wild card Nicola Kuhn recorded his first ATP World Tour match win in a hard-fought 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Darian King of Barbados in one hour and 42 minutes for a second-round clash against Italian No. 15 seed Fabio Fognini, the Brasil Open titlist in February.

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Returning Serve: The Long & Short Of It

  • Posted: Mar 22, 2018

Returning Serve: The Long & Short Of It

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers highlights return depth on Deuce and Ad courts

Directing first serves out wide in the Ad court will bring significantly more shorter returns than hitting them wide in the Deuce court.

The primary reason is that right-handed returners must hit a backhand return in the Ad court, and we now know that depth is a real issue with this specific shot from out wide. An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of more than 17,000 wide returns against first serves in both the Deuce and Ad courts hit by current players in the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings uncovers this hidden strategic anomaly.

The data set of 17,705 wide first serve returns comes from ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events and Nitto ATP Finals from 2011-2018. Return depth is divided up into three categories.

1. Short = In the service box.
2. Middle = Behind the service line (but closer to the service line than baseline).
3. Deep = Closer to the baseline than the service line.

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Return depth to the middle area was the most constant between the Deuce and Ad courts, only varying 1.9 percentage points (49.7% to 47.8%).

The larger percentage swings were primarily from short returns in the service box and deep returns back near the baseline. There was a significant 5.4 percentage difference in short returns, and a 3.6 percentage point swing in deep returns hit between the Deuce and Ad courts.

Wide Return Location Deuce Ct & Ad Ct: Return Depth = Short / Middle / Long

Wide Return Location Short Middle Deep
Ad Court 29.3% 47.8% 22.8%
Deuce Court 23.9% 49.7% 26.4%

Quite clearly, making first serves out wide in the Ad court (to a right hander’s backhand return) will bring a lot more short, attackable balls back in the service box for the server to feast on.

Deuce Court Wide Returns
Former World No. 1s Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are at either ends of the spectrum regarding return depth from the Deuce court. Out of the current Top 20, Nadal hit the most amount of short returns in the service box (his backhand return) at 31.8 per cent, while Djokovic hits the least, at only 17.9 per cent.

Deuce Court: Return Depth from Wide Serves

Ranking Player Short Middle Deep Total
7 Dominic Thiem 21.3% 45.1% 33.7% 315
13 Tomas Berdych 22.5% 47.2% 30.4% 632
4 Grigor Dimitrov 20.2% 50.3% 29.5% 461
6 Juan Martin Del Potro 24.4% 46.2% 29.4% 320
12 Novak Djokovic 17.9% 53.3% 28.8% 1404
16 Diego Schwartzman 27.4% 43.9% 28.7% 157
15 Roberto Bautista Agut 21.2% 50.7% 28.1% 288
1 Roger Federer 19.6% 52.8% 27.6% 815
17 John Isner 24.3% 48.1% 27.6% 536
19 Pablo Carreno Busta 18.6% 54.0% 27.4% 113
8 Kevin Anderson 20.9% 52.2% 26.9% 364
20 Nick Kyrgios 18.7% 54.5% 26.8% 198
11 Jack Sock 23.9% 49.7% 26.4% 318
10 Lucas Pouille 26.5% 47.7% 25.8% 132
9 David Goffin 21.3% 53.9% 24.8% 408
3 Marin Cilic 23.5% 52.8% 23.7% 443
18 Fabio Fognini 23.7% 53.2% 23.1% 363
5 Alexander Zverev 30.5% 47.3% 22.3% 256
2 Rafael Nadal 31.8% 46.2% 22.1% 1395
14 Sam Querrey 30.0% 49.3% 20.7% 213
AVERAGE 23.8% 50.3% 25.9% 7723

Dominic Thiem hit the highest amount of deep returns, at 33.7 per cent, while Sam Querrey struggled the most to get Deuce court forehand returns deep, averaging only 20.7 per cent.

Ad Court Wide Returns
Djokovic was also the peak performer in keeping his first serve returns out of the service box in the Ad court, only hitting 21.6 per cent of his returns there. The Serb also hit the most amount in the deep section (28.9%), followed by Kevin Anderson (26.9%), Grigor Dimitrov (26.4%) and Dominic Thiem (26.1%).

Ad Court: Return Depth from Wide Serves

Ranking Player Short Middle Deep Total
12 Novak Djokovic 21.6% 49.5% 28.9% 1163
8 Kevin Anderson 26.9% 46.2% 26.9% 320
4 Grigor Dimitrov 25.6% 48.0% 26.4% 473
7 Dominic Thiem 27.9% 46.0% 26.1% 398
9 David Goffin 23.2% 51.1% 25.7% 323
18 Fabio Fognini 26.9% 47.4% 25.6% 386
13 Tomas Berdych 26.4% 48.6% 25.0% 591
17 John Isner 26.0% 49.2% 24.8% 508
1 Roger Federer 26.4% 50.2% 23.4% 1163
3 Marin Cilic 31.1% 46.0% 22.9% 402
14 Sam Querrey 37.6% 39.9% 22.5% 258
6 Juan Martin Del Potro 30.2% 47.9% 21.9% 388
16 Diego Schwartzman 28.7% 50.0% 21.3% 136
2 Rafael Nadal 34.7% 44.4% 20.9% 759
11 Jack Sock 33.5% 46.1% 20.4% 358
10 Lucas Pouille 28.7% 51.2% 20.0% 160
5 Alexander Zverev 30.8% 49.8% 19.4% 227
15 Roberto Bautista Agut 32.0% 48.8% 19.2% 291
19 Pablo Carreno Busta 33.1% 49.2% 17.8% 118
20 Nick Kyrgios 34.9% 47.4% 17.8% 152
AVERAGE 29.3% 47.8% 22.8% 8574

What’s the action plan from this insightful new data? Make sure you have got a solid wide first serve in the Ad court to take advantage of short backhand returns, and if you are on the receiving side of the equation, add a little more height to your Ad court return to give it the extra wings it needs to make it deep back near the baseline.

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Williams knocked out of Miami Open

  • Posted: Mar 22, 2018

Serena Williams was knocked out of the Miami Open in the first round by Naomi Osaka as the 23-time Grand Slam winner continues her return after pregnancy.

Williams, unseeded after taking 13 months off to have her first child, was beaten 6-3 6-2 by the Japanese, 20.

The American lost serve twice in each set and was unable to break back.

Her defeat comes after the Miami Open director said seeding rules for players coming back after maternity leave were a “punishment” and “should be changed”.

Osaka is herself also unseeded but last week claimed her maiden title at Indian Wells to move up to 22 in the world.

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Her powerful serve and relentless returning proved too much for Williams, who was broken at 3-3 and 5-3 in the first set and again at 3-1 in the second.

Osaka clinched victory when Williams sprayed a wide open forehand long, and will now face world number four Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the second round.

“I was extremely nervous coming on to the court. I don’t know if anybody knows this but Serena is my favourite player,” Osaka said.

“So just playing against her is kind of like a dream for me. I’m very grateful I was able to play her and it is even better that I was able to win.”

Williams, 36, made her return to the WTA Tour at Indian Wells earlier this month, losing to sister Venus in the third round.

She has no official ranking, which means she cannot be seeded for WTA events.

However, she can gain entry to eight tournaments in 12 months – including two Grand Slams – with her protected world number one ranking.

Azarenka & Muguruza go through

Two-time grand slam winner Victoria Azarenka marked her fourth event since giving birth with a 6-3 6-0 win over American Cici Bellis.

The Belarusian pulled out of the US Open and the Fed Cup final earlier last year because of a custody dispute over her young son.

Azarenka, who made her first appearance of the year at Indian Wells last week, took just over an hour to brush past the 18-year-old.

Meanwhile, Bethanie Mattek-Sands lost in her first WTA Tour match since dislocating her right kneecap and rupturing a tendon at Wimbledon last year.

The 32-year-old doubles specialist had been awarded a wild card but slipped to a 6-2 7-5 defeat at the hands of France’s Alize Cornet.

And third seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain progressed after her opponent, 16-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, withdrew due to injury.

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