Top-ranked Djokovic battles into Miami quarters
Jim SLATER, Agence France-Presse
World number one Novak Djokovic was struggling to play his best, but held firm when pressed to the brink Tuesday and battled into the ATP and WTA Miami Open quarter-finals.
The two-time defending champion outdueled Austrian 14th seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, stretching his Miami win streak to 13 matches to book a last-eight date Wednesday against Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych.
“Straight set win but far from easy. It was a tough match,” Djokovic said. “I kept my serves. But I made a lot of double faults and he had me under a lot of pressure.”
Berdych outlasted French 10th seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, but has won only two of 24 meetings with Djokovic, having lost their past nine matches since a 2013 Rome quarter-final victory.
Australian 24th seed Nick Kyrgios, the youngest top-30 ATP player at age 20, reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 victory over Russia’s 51st-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov.
Kyrgios, off to a career-best 13-3 start that includes his first ATP title last month at Marseille, next plays Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic, who ripped Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-0, 6-3.
Raonic breezed through the first set in 21 minutes and ended matters with his 11th ace after only 54 minutes.
Back to drawing board for new father Murray
Jim SLATER, Agence France-Presse
Third-round exits from two elite ATP events since becoming a father have Britain’s Andy Murray searching for answers as the world number two approaches the start of the claycourt season.
The 28-year-old Scotsman lost a 6-7 (1/7), 6-4, 6-3 shocker to 28th-ranked Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Monday at the Miami Open after having been sent packing at Indian Wells by Argentina’s 48th-ranked Frederico Delbonis.
“I was up a break in the third, same thing in Indian Wells as well,” Murray said. “Then lost a run of games in both matches. So need to look at that and see where I go from there.”
Murray, who fell to 0-5 in Australian Open finals with a loss to Novak Djokovic in January, became a father February 7 when his wife Kim gave birth to daughter Sophia and took a break until Indian Wells.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Murray said. “I expected Indian Wells to be tricky. But here I had a long time to prepare, practiced pretty well.
“Indian Wells, understandable. Here, not so much.”
Murray said becoming a father has given him a more relaxed perspective on tennis, but has not changed the amount of work he does.
“Win or lose, it’s not irrelevent to me but it’s not as important as it was before,” he said. “It’s not as stressful.”
Eubank confirms Blackwell mercy plea
Former British boxer Chris Eubank confirmed on Tuesday that he told his son to stop targeting Nick Blackwell’s head during a bout that left Blackwell in an induced coma.
Blackwell, 25, has been in an induced coma and was found to have suffered a small bleed on the brain after collapsing at the end of his British middleweight title defeat by Chris Eubank Jr on Saturday.
Television images appeared to show Eubank Sr telling his son not to aim for Blackwell’s head during the fight, which was stopped in the 10th round by referee Victor Loughlin.
“Even in sparring, I tell Junior to stay away from the head because his punching is fast, powerful and dangerous,” Eubank, a former middleweight and super-middleweight world champion, told the BBC.
“So most certainly I was saying this to protect the fighter.”
Another seed drops as number five Halep falls
Another high seed fell as number five Simona Halep was sent packing by Timea Bacsinszky 4-6 6-3 6-2 in a Miami Open quarter-final in Florida on Tuesday.
Romanian Halep appeared well-placed for victory when she took the first set.
It was only the second set Bacsinszky had dropped during the tournament, and the 19th-seeded Swiss made sure it would be her last of the day as she prevailed in a match that stretched nearly two hours 30 minutes.
Watched by a crowd that included Swiss ski champion Lara Gut, Bacsinszky carved out some good moves of her own, and ended the match in style with a cross-court backhand winner.
Hackett’s Olympic tilt hit by illness
Swimming legend Grant Hackett’s preparations for a tilt at the Rio Olympics have been upset by illness, with the Australian now focused on the 4x200m relay after admitting his chances of making the 400m freestyle are limited.
The dual Olympic champion, 35, came out of six years of troubled retirement to try to make the Games with the Australian trials taking place in Adelaide next week.
He had initially planned to challenge for an individual place in the 400m free but a bout of bronchitis in January meant he missed three weeks of training, while relapsing into the illness repeatedly, The Australian newspaper reported.
Despite the setback Hackett, who retired in 2008 after winning the 1500m freestyle at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics, and claiming four world titles in the event, is determined to be on the plane to Brazil.
Kristoff takes first stage of De Panne
Alexander Kristoff proved he has rediscovered his form ahead of the defence of his Tour of Flanders title as he won the first stage of Three Days of De Panne on Tuesday.
The Norwegian edged out Astana pair Alexei Lutsenko and Lieuwe Westra in a sprint finish at the end of the 198km stage from De Panne to Zottegem.
Kristoff won the race last year as well before going on to claim Tour of Flanders glory just three days later.
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