Djokovic suffers another early exit, Thiem crashes back to earth, Nadal returns
Novak Djokovic had another early exit this week, losing in the Miami Masters fourth round, while Indian Wells winner Dominic Thiem was another big name scalp. Alex Grant takes a look at this past week at the Miami Masters.
Novak Djokovic has suffered another early exit with the Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut battling back from a first set drubbing to beat the Serb 1-6 7-5 6-3 and book his spot in the Miami Masters quarter-finals.
It is the second time in three months that the Spaniard has beaten the world number one having also come from a set down to win during their last meeting at the Qatar Open at the start of the year. Bautista-Agut will now face defending champion John Isner in the last eight after the 6’10 American downed British number one Kyle Edmund in two tiebreak sets in the round of 16.
For Djokovic it was another disappointing week and after the match the 31-year-old cited off court distractions as playing a major part in his poor showings in both Indian Wells (l. Kohlschreiber) and Miami commenting:
“I just had way too many things off the court. I guess that affected me a little bit on the court. I didn’t feel my best health-wise, as well, in Indian Wells and here. Still rusty, but, hey, look, you learn that’s life.”
Djokovic was not the first big name casualty of the week, however, with that title instead going to last week’s Indian Wells champion Dominic Thiem.
Thiem who came into Miami riding high following his first ATP Masters 1000 triumph was soon sent crashing back down to earth with a thud after he fell to a comprehensive 6-4 6-4 defeat to 22-year-old Hubert Hurkacz in the second round.
The match up came just five days after Thiem claimed Indian Wells glory with a hard-fought victory over Roger Federer in the final, but the Austrian was quick to distance himself from any suggestion that the match came to soon:
“I had a lot of emotions the last week, but I still had three or four days since then and that should be enough.” Thiem commented following the defeat.
The 25-year-old will instead now turn his attentions to the fast approaching clay court season, which will run through April and May, culminating with the second grand slam of the year at the French Open, where Thiem reached the first and so far, the only major final of his career last year (l. Nadal).
Elsewhere in Miami Spanish veteran David Ferrer who had conquered second seed Sascha Zverev in the second round was soon sent packing himself by the powerful young American Frances Tiafoe who became one of four players under the age of 23 to reach the quarter finals. The first time that has happened at a Masters event in a decade.
Included in those four is Denis Shapovalov who Tiafoe will face in the last eight. This is after the left handed Canadian came out on top in Tuesday’s late-night battle of the ‘next gen’ stars when he downed Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in a hard-fought contest that ended just before 01:40 in the morning local time.
Speaking directly following his epic victory Shapovalov, 19, was keen to express his happiness at coming through what he knew would be a difficult match against the 20-year-old Greek:
“I knew Stefanos was going to be a tough match. I was ready for a long battle and, sure enough, it went the distance,” commented the young Canadian. “I’m just happy with the way I controlled myself and the way I played today.”
Away from Miami and there was positive news for Rafael Nadal fans as the legendary Spaniard returned to the practice courts just weeks after his most recent injury setback.
Nadal, 32, has long suffered from weakness in his knees and was recently forced to pull out ahead of his hotly anticipated 39th career meeting with long-time rival and friend Roger Federer in the Indian Wells semi-final.
Practicing at his self-named tennis academy though, Nadal is back hitting on his beloved clay and whilst his camp are yet to provide an injury update since his withdrawal from Indian Wells and subsequently Miami, the sight of the Spaniard back on court and without any taping on those troublesome knees can only be viewed as a positive.
The Spaniard widely acclaimed as the ‘King of Clay’ will be gearing up for the upcoming clay court swing where Nadal will undoubtedly be hoping to write yet more history by winning the Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona 500 and the French Open for a record 12th time each. He would be the first player to achieve such a feat eclipsing the current record of 11 titles won at a single event which Nadal himself set last season.