Getty Images

Serena withdraws, No. 1 Osaka loses, Federer wins at Miami

Leave a comment

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The new site for the Miami Open suddenly is missing a lot of star power.

Serena Williams withdrew Saturday, blaming a previously undisclosed left knee injury. Less than two hours later, top-ranked Naomi Osaka lost in the third round to tour veteran Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Osaka’s departure matched the earliest ever in the tournament by a top-seeded woman and jeopardized her No. 1 ranking, depending on results next week.

“I feel like I’ve dealt with the stress of people asking me do I have pressure because I have the No. 1 next to my name,” Osaka said. “I thought I was doing fine with that, but I guess I’m not.”

Roger Federer briefly seemed headed for the exit but instead advanced to the third round by rallying past qualifier Radu Albot 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

“Radu put me through the ringer,” Federer said.

Williams’ withdrawal was unexpected because she showed no signs of injury a day earlier while winning her opening match against Rebecca Peterson, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. Williams didn’t mention any health issues during a news conference after the match, and the WTA had no information regarding when she was hurt.

Williams’ victory Friday was her first at Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Dolphins’ home and the Miami Open’s new center court. The tournament moved this year from Key Biscayne, where Williams won eight titles.

“I am disappointed to withdraw,” she said in a statement. “It was an amazing experience to play at Hard Rock Stadium this year, and I would like to thank the Miami Open for putting on an amazing event. I hope to be back next year to play at this one-of-a-kind tournament in front of the incredible fans here in Miami.”

Federer, a three-time champion, lost serve only once – in the first game – but was on the ropes until he swept the final three games, to the relief of an enthusiastic stadium crowd.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Federer said. “It was electric. I think that’s why I played so well at the end.”

While attendance in the stadium continued to be spotty, outer courts were jammed, and the day session drew a tournament record 32,831 spectators.

Seeded losers on the men’s side included No. 10 Karen Khachanov, No. 21 Diego Schwartzman, No. 26 Guido Pella, No. 30 Stan Wawrinka and No. 31 Steve Johnson. In a game of inches, the 5-foot-6 Schwartzman lost to 6-foot-11 Reilly Opelka 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Williams was next scheduled to play No. 18-seeded Qiang Wang, who advanced to the fourth round.

Also reaching the women’s round of 16 was the 33-year-old Hsieh, who turned pro in 2001 but has achieved the two biggest victories of her career in the past nine months. Her only other win over a No. 1 player came against Simona Halep at Wimbledon last year.

With two-handed groundstrokes from both sides, Hsieh was the steadier player from the baseline against Osaka. When Hsieh closed out match point with a forehand volley winner, she began to cry as the crowd applauded her performance.

Osaka smiled when reminded it was the first time in 64 matches she lost after winning the first set.

“I know – it’s depressing,” she said. “I was thinking about it right after I lost.”

Osaka, 21, has won the past two Grand Slam tournaments. Williams, 37, still hasn’t won a tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, before she took a break of more than a year to become a mom. She has played only eight matches this year.

Williams’ stay at the Miami Open was also brief last year, when she lost in the first round to Osaka. Friday’s match was Williams’ first since she retired from Indian Wells two weeks ago because of a viral illness.

Fed Cup: U.S. beats Switzerland in World Group playoff

AP Photo
Leave a comment

SAN ANTONIO — Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens won matches to give the United States a 3-1 victory over Switzerland on Sunday in a Fed Cup World Group playoff.

Kenin, a late replacement for Madison Keys, beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 7-6 (4) to wrap up the match at Freeman Coliseum. The Americans advanced to the 2020 World Group draw, while Switzerland was relegated to World Group II.

In the opening match Sunday, Stephens beat Viktorija Golubic 6-3, 6-2.

On Saturday, Stephens beat Bacsinszky 6-4, 6-3, and Golubic topped Keys 6-2, 6-3.

The U.S. improved to 9-0 against Switzerland in Fed Cup play.

Fognini beats Lajovic to win Monte Carlo Masters

AP Photo
Leave a comment

MONACO — Fabio Fognini won the biggest title of his career after beating Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 Sunday in the Monte Carlo Masters final.

The 13th-seeded Italian’s first title of the year was his ninth overall but first at Masters level.

It came the day after he stunned defending champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets, becoming the first player to beat Nadal here since Novak Djokovic in the 2015 semifinals.

“It has been an incredible week, I will keep working,” Fognini said. “I started the season badly so this is unbelievable.”

After going out in the third round of the Australian Open, Fognini had won only one match and lost six times before this tournament.

Playing here may have given him a boost, however, since he grew up in nearby San Remo – just over the Italian border and a short drive or train ride away along the glittering Mediterranean coast.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic’s run to his first career final was unexpected. But the unseeded Serb rarely threatened in humid, overcast and slightly windy conditions.

Fognini needed a medical timeout to receive treatment to his right foot and right thigh after the fifth game of the second set.

But it did not impede him as he served out the match, clinching victory on his second match point when Lajovic hit a forehand wide.

The players hugged warmly at the net.

The 31-year-old Fognini is only the fourth man to win the clay-court event since Nadal’s first of a record 11 wins in 2005. Djokovic, twice, and Stan Wawrinka also won.

The last Italian before Fognini was Nicola Pietrangeli in 1968.

The 85-year-old Pietrangeli, a two-time French Open winner, stood and applauded as Fognini dropped to his knees to kiss the surface.

Pietrangeli walked gingerly onto the court and the pair hugged. Pietrangeli posed alongside Fognini as he held the trophy

The match started evenly enough, but Fognini broke for a 4-2 lead when Lajovic made an unforced error on forehand. Fognini then held his serve with a typically flamboyant one-handed, cross-court backhand to take control.

Serving for the set, Fognini saved a break point with a forehand winner down the line, and then clinched it with an equally good backhand.

Fognini broke for a 3-2 lead in the second set when Lajovic hit a forehand wide.

After Fognini’s medical timeout, Lajovic missed an easy smash at 30-30 in the next game.

With that miss, his slim hopes faded.