Tue, Mar 26, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Djokovic flies off the handle, then rallies to advance

AP, MIAMI GARDENS, Florida

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns to Federico Delbonis of Argentina in their Miami Open men’s singles match in Florida on Sunday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Novak Djokovic pulled a spare ball from his pocket, angrily whacked it against the backstop and then pounded his uncooperative racket into the concrete.

He lost his temper, but not the match.

Annoyed after squandering a second-set lead, Djokovic on Sunday regrouped and beat Federico Delbonis 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 in the third round of the Miami Open.

Djokovic appeared on his way to an easy victory when he led 3-1 in the second set, but he dropped serve twice in a row. He then steadied himself to win a succession of long rallies and sweep the last five games.

“We were very close in the beginning of the third set,” Djokovic said. “It could have gone a different way.”

World No. 1 Djokovic is trying for his seventh title at the Miami Open, which moved this year to the Dolphins’ complex.

On the women’s side, defending champion Sloane Stephens lost to Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-2; while Venus Williams, who is a three-time Miami champion but unseeded, beat 14th seed Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1.

Defending men’s champion John Isner was broken in the first game, but he held the rest of the way and hit 16 aces to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 7-6 (8/6).

Isner, 33, won the biggest title of his career in the tournament a year ago. Seeded seventh, he next faces 19th seed Kyle Edmund, who beat 12th seed Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4.

Djokovic’s fourth-round opponent is 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who eliminated 15th seed Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-4.

“I’m hitting the ball well,” Djokovic said. “I just need a little more consistency to hold that level of play the entire match.”

Crowds on the outer courts were again large and festive, but the atmosphere in the vast stadium was more subdued, with the stands only half full for Djokovic’s match.

“It’s a unique stadium in tennis,” he said. “It’s obviously different from anything we’ve experienced before. It’s not a tennis venue. We’re guests here of the Miami Dolphins.”

Williams advanced to the fourth round of the tournament for the 16th time.

She lost her serve four times against Kasatkina, but won every return game, going eight for eight.

“I’ve never had a match like that before in my life,” she said. “There’s always a time for a first. I’m returning really well.”

Williams won the title in 1998, 1999 and 2001. She is unseeded at Miami for the first time since 2012, but seems to be enjoying herself, smiling often — including when Kasatkina hit a shot between her legs.

“I never smile on the court and this week I’ve smiled a lot,” Williams said. “There’s a lot to smile for. That’s all I can say.”

Williams next faces second seed Simona Halep, who outlasted Polona Hercog 5-7, 7-6 (7/1), 6-2.

“I was running like crazy for three hours,” Halep said. “If I keep doing this, I think I have a chance to be back [at world] No. 1.”

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