Getty Images

Novak Djokovic survives scare, tops Gilles Muller in Toronto

Leave a comment

TORONTO (AP) Top-ranked Novak Djokovic survived a scare to beat Gilles Muller 7-5, 7-6 (3) on Wednesday in the Rogers Cup, his final event before the Rio Olympics.

“I actually think that Toronto is a great way for me to prepare for the Olympic Games and what’s coming up after that,” Djokovic said. “But also, you know, I enjoy my time in this tournament that I always love playing.”

The Serbian star noted that he had extra time off after falling in the third round at Wimbledon. The Rogers Cup rotates between Toronto and Montreal, with the women playing in Montreal this week.

“I enjoy Canada, both cities, Toronto and Montreal, and the past results in history show that I have a good time on Canadian soil, so I try to get the best out of it,” said Djokovic, the tournament winner in 2007, 2011 and 2012.

Djokovic struggled against Muller in his first hard-court match since March, both with his serves and his short game. Ultimately, unforced errors were Muller’s undoing, with both sets easily in reach of the unseeded player from Luxembourg.

“Gilles Muller is a very difficult player to play against in quick conditions,” Djokovic said. “He takes away the time of the opponent. He serves and volleys second serve a lot, as well, which he’s one of the rare guys that does that. He likes to play quick, and I think the warm day like today played a lot in his favor.”

Djokovic will face qualifier Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the third round.

Third-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan downed American Dennis Novikov 6-4, 7-5; and fourth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada beat Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 6-3.

American qualifier Ryan Harrison outlasted ninth-seeded countryman John Isner 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 6-4, and 10th-seeded Gael Monfils of France topped Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, Canada, 7-6 (6), 6-0. Monfils won the Citi Open on Sunday in Washington.

Serena Williams loses in first round at Miami Open to Osaka

Getty Images
Leave a comment

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Serena Williams lost in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday, still rusty in her return from pregnancy and unable to overcome a tough draw against Naomi Osaka, who won 6-3, 6-2.

The 20-year-old Osaka, who earned her first career title Sunday at Indian Wells, showed no signs of letup and overpowered the erratic Williams. Osaka had the stronger serve, and in rallies wore down Williams working her from side to side.

The matchup worthy of a final came about because both players are unseeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best 22nd, while Williams’ ranking is 491st after her layoff of more than a year.

Another new mother and former No. 1, three-time Key Biscayne champion Victoria Azarenka, defeated Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-0.

Williams has endured a first-round defeat only four other times, most recently at the 2012 French Open. The latest loss came at a tournament she has won a record eight times and considers her hometown event.

The match was the last for Williams at Key Biscayne, 90 miles south of her home in Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament is moving next year to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, and Williams helped with the ceremonial groundbreaking Monday.

After her defeat, she left without speaking to the media.

Because of Williams’ ranking, she entered the draw as a wild card, and looked the part. She was a step slow to balls in the corners and often late with her swing, while she put barely half her first serves in play.

Osaka, who has both American and Japanese citizenship and lives in Fort Lauderdale, was playing her idol for the first time but didn’t seem a bit fazed. She improved to 14-4 this year.

Things may get tougher for her in the second round, when she’ll face No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina.

More AP tennis coverage:

Sock, Querrey, Isner among U.S. Davis Cup picks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, John Isner, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson have been picked for the U.S. Davis Cup team that will face Belgium in the quarterfinals next month in Nashville, Tennessee.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced captain Jim Courier’s roster Wednesday. Belgium’s team hasn’t been made public yet.

Sock is the highest-ranked American man at No. 11 this week, with Querrey at 14th and Isner 17th.

The matches will be played on a hard court at Belmont University from April 6-8.

The winner will face Croatia or Kazakhstan in the semifinals Sept. 14-16. The U.S. hasn’t been to the Davis Cup’s final four since 2012.

The United States holds a 4-0 record against Belgium in the Davis Cup, but the countries last played each other in 2005.