Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Djokovic wins Miami opener, Federer withdraws

AFP, MIAMI

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns to Britain’s Kyle Edmund during their second-round match at the Miami Open in Florida on Friday.

Photo: EPA

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic on Friday made a strong start in his quest for a third consecutive Miami Open title, while Roger Federer’s expected return from a two-month layoff was over before it started.

Djokovic, seeking his sixth Miami crown overall and the first “three-peat” since Andre Agassi in 2001-2003, opened by defeating Britain’s 87th-ranked Kyle Edmund 6-3, 6-3 in the ATP and WTA hardcourt event.

“I had a solid performance,” Djokovic said. “I started with the right intensity and good focus. I had slight ups and downs. I am pleased. I am looking forward to the next one.”

Djokovic, who captured his 11th Grand Slam singles crown at the Australian Open two months ago, was set to face Portugal’s Joao Sousa in yesterday’s third round as he tries to add to a trophy haul that also includes this year’s Doha and Indian Wells.

The 28-year-old Serbian is 23-1 this year and has 25 of his past 26 Miami matches, including 11 in a row.

Third-ranked Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam singles champion who underwent left knee surgery last month, withdrew from the tournament just hours before his match, citing a stomach virus.

“I have not felt great for a few days and unfortunately it got worse in the last 24 hours,” Federer said. “I was really excited to have my comeback in Miami, but I am in no condition to play. I tried to warm up this morning, but it was clear that I could not compete.”

The 34-year-old Swiss legend missed the event for the third time in four years. He won at Miami in 2005 and 2006, but has not reached the final since.

Federer has not played since losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals two months ago. The next morning, Federer suffered a torn meniscus while preparing to bathe his children.

Federer had not expected to play at Miami, but recovered well from the operation and said he was excited for the opportunity.

“It is good it is a stomach problem and not the knee, so it is not a big deal,” long-time Federer rival Rafael Nadal said.

DEL POTRO EXITS

Federer was replaced by 58th-ranked lucky loser Horacio Zeballos, who made the most of his chance by defeating Argentine compatriot Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 6-4.

“I was sitting in the locker room playing chess and watching others playing when they told us the news. I was really happy,” Zeballos said. “I was so relaxed. I played great. I knew I was playing Juan Martin and he had more pressure than me so I played relaxed.”

It was only the third event for 366th-rated Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, in his comeback following left wrist surgery last year and he struggled with pain.

“I was suffering a little bit,” Del Potro said. “It was worse than my first match, but I hope nothing dangerous. This is a long road to get better and play tennis again. For me, it is like a surprise when I win a match. I am trying to deal with the pain. I am suffering, but I am playing tennis and that is good.”

KERBER, MUGURUZA ADVANCE

Reigning Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber and Spanish fourth-seed Garbine Muguruza, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, reached the third round.

German second-seed Kerber cruised past Czech Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-1, while Muguruza battled for 2 hours and 45 minutes before subduing Slovakia’s 54th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 7-5.

Next up for Kerber, whose best Miami showing was a 2014 quarter-final run, is 108th-ranked Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens. Muguruza is set to meet US wildcard Nicole Gibbs.

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