Getty Images

Dimitrov defeats Nishikori for first title since 2014

Leave a comment

BRISBANE, Australia — Grigor Dimitrov ended a long wait between ATP titles, beating third-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 on Sunday night to win the Brisbane International final and claim his first tournament victory since 2014.

Dimitrov, dubbed `Baby Fed’ earlier in his career for his style similarities with Roger Federer, lost the Brisbane International final to Andy Murray in 2013. He won three titles in 2014, and reached the Wimbledon semifinals as he rose to a career-high ranking of No. 8.

But his form faded and he slipped down the rankings to No. 40 in the middle of last year before starting a career resurgence and entering the season-opening Brisbane event ranked No. 17 and seeded seventh.

“It’s been pretty emotional,” Dimitrov said. “This trophy means a lot.”

He beat defending champion Milos Raonic in the semifinals. Against Nishikori, who reached his first Brisbane final after losing three previous semifinals, he fended off two breakpoints in the first game and another in the third to hold, absorbing all the early pressure before going on the attack and racing through the set.

The second set was almost a reverse of the first, with Dimitrov missing a breakpoint chance early before Nishikori rallied to win it in 33 minutes and level at 1-set apiece.

Nishikori had a medical timeout for what appeared to be a left hip problem and got treatment in the locker room after the second set.

He lost momentum in the third, as Dimitrov upped his level again. The 25-year-old Bulgarian didn’t drop a point in his first two service games in the third and maintained the pressure on Nishikori’s serve, eventually forcing a break in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead. He held at love to close out for his fifth career title when Nishikori hit a forehand long.

Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, predicted he’d be back again.

“First time to be in the finals, so I was very happy this week,” Nishikori said. “I hope I can come back next year – someday I want to win this title.”

Raonic withdraws from Miami Open with hamstring injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Milos Raonic has pulled out of the Miami Open after aggravating a right hamstring injury that sidelined him for nearly a month.

The No. 3-seeded Raonic withdrew before Sunday’s match against American qualifier Jared Donaldson, who advanced to the fourth round.

Raonic said his injury became progressively worse after his opening match, his first since Feb. 25. He expects to be sidelined at least two weeks and perhaps longer.

The Canadian said he hasn’t made it through an entire tournament healthy since Wimbledon last July.

Nadal advances to start bid for first Key Biscayne

Getty Images
Leave a comment

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Rafael Nadal’s first fist pump Friday followed his second point in the Miami Open, when he kissed a forehand off the sideline to win a long rally.

He accompanied the celebratory gesture with a skip in his step and then hit the accelerator, holding every service game to beat Dudi Sela 6-3, 6-4.

Thus began Nadal’s latest bid to win Key Biscayne.

“A lot of big motivation,” he said.

He’s playing the tournament for the 13th time and has never won it, although he was the runner-up in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014. At 0 for 12, it’s Nadal’s longest drought at any event, and perhaps the most glaring gap in the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s resume.

Does it bug him? He won’t admit to any frustration, but lets slip that he still remembers the exact score when he was two points from the title in the third set versus Novak Djokovic.

That was six years ago.

“Against Novak – 6-5, 15-30,” Nadal said. “It didn’t happen.”

The Spaniard has always enjoyed the atmosphere in Miami, where Latin fans give him enthusiastic support, and he likes the tournament’s hard courts. He’s simply overdue.

“I’m trying my best every year,” Nadal told the stadium crowd after dispatching Sela. “I’ve been very close four times. I will try to give myself another chance.”

Nadal is 15-4 this year and pleased with his play. He lost to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final, and again in the fourth round at Indian Wells last week.

Against Sela, Nadal served well, erased the only two break points he faced and overcame the occasional errant groundstroke on a windy afternoon.

“It was very difficult to find the right feelings,” Nadal said. “These kind of days, what you have to do is try to win. That’s what I did, and I’m happy with that.”

Making Nadal’s title bid easier will be the absence of six-time champion Djokovic and two-time champion Andy Murray, both out with elbow injuries.

But No. 3-seeded Milos Raonic is back. He won in his first match since Feb. 25, beating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 7-5. Raonic had been sidelined by a right leg injury.

“I’ve prepared the best I can for this tournament,” Raonic said. “I’m not necessarily in the best position right now, but fortunately it’s a long tournament. Doesn’t mean things can’t change and I can’t get better throughout this event.”

No. 2 Kei Nishikori beat Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3. No. 7 Marin Cilic lost to Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

In women’s play, Elena Vesnina made a quick exit only five days after winning the biggest title of her career. Seeded 13th, Vesnina lost her opening match to wild card Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Vesnina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Indian Wells final.

In a match that took two days because of rain, No. 6 Garbine Muguruza rallied past Christina McHale 0-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. No. 3 Simona Halep beat Naomi Osaka 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. American qualifier Taylor Townsend eliminated No. 25 Robert Vinci 6-3, 6-2.