Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Serena Shock

What is in the water in Miami ?  First we had third seed Aga Radwanska deciding to lose her fourth round match to Swiss miss Timea Bacsinszky after dominating the first set.  All credit to a brilliant serving and returning performance from Timea in the decider to which Aga was completely stymied.

If this was a surprise, Sveta Kuznetsova had one better to pull on the crowd - she forced Serena to a first set tie breaker, and in one of the most statistically even sets of the year only the ace count saw Serena break free.  The world number one also controlled the tie break to the relief of her fans, and was a set up.

Expect the unexpected is not a phrase associated with Serena Williams all that often but Sveta's second and third sets were worthy of it today.  In winning them 6-1 6-2 the dual Grand Slam champ converted five of eleven break points while Serena was successful in one of two.  Sveta won 64 points to 34 in the final two sets in a smashing just not precedented and questions immediately were raised as to what was wrong with Serena.

Fifth seed Simona Halep had no drama in her straight sets win over Heather Watson, while Watson's fellow country woman Johanna Konta was just as comfortable sending Monica Niculescu back to Romania.

In the match of the day, Garbine Muguruza had set point over Vika Azarenka in an exciting first set tie break, but the experienced Belarusian saved that and collected the next two points as well to win the set.  From there Vika exerted her renowned pressure to set up a clear lead in the second set and look for a quick finish.  She didn't count on a strong Spanish will to fight this one out and before long it was 5-5, and ultimately another tie break. Vika closed the match, winning the tie break seven points to four.  A close match, but still she proved to be the woman to beat in tennis right now.  Yet another clash with Angie Kerber, this time in the semis, may be a Miami highlight to come.  Garbine lost but is finding more of her 2015 form, and may be primed nicely for Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

Eager to return to the world's top twenty or higher, Russia's Ekaterina Makarova took the sword 6-1 to Elina Svitolina from the Ukraine, currently sitting in the top twenty, before more decorum in the second set, allowing four games.  Makarova looking good, the 6-1 6-4 win setting up an all Russian quarter final with Kuznetsova.

Madison Keys is setting Key Biscayne on fire.  After sending 9th seed Roberta Vinci on her way, the American destroyed Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-1, and her meeting with 2nd seed Angie Kerber now takes on a new significance.  Angie took her full three sets to overcome Hungary's Timea Babos.

The men's draw was highlighted by a terrific fourth round clash between 9th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from France and 17th seed Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.  Roberto may be ranked lower, but has two titles to his name in 2016 already.
The first two sets were split and the third set deservedly went to a tie break, although Tsonga was surviving on a poor first serve percentage (49% compared to 81% for Roberto)

Bautista Agut won through to the round of sixteen with tie break success 7-3.

Andy Murray had much resistance from Grigor Dimitrov until he sliced him up seven points to one in a set one tie break.  Dimitrov didn't fall away as many thought though and broke the Scot serve straight away in set two, maintaining the advantage throughout, and serving successfully for 6-4 and one set apiece.
Murray, with a generous contribution of unforced errors assisted Grigor in the third set and the second seed exited Miami, further ripping apart the bottom section of the draw, Kei Nishikori at 6 the only single digit seed left in that part.  Monfils is next for Dimitrov.
In fact only Djokovic (1) and Berdych (7) remain as single digit seeds in the top half of the draw. So Miami is wide open for a player outside the regulars to take the title.  But wait, Novak is still there !

Nick Kyrgios was comfortable in victory over US qualifier Tim Smyczek, and with Nadal and Wawrinka gone from that section of the draw, a quarter final against Raonic is a distinct possibility, the Canadian faithfully observing the protocol of booting US players out of Florida, 22nd seed Jack Sock the latest casualty.

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