Nadal rips Hewitt, Serena and Sharapova survive


Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - Page 20

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal hammered former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-3 on Saturday to reach the third round at the ATP and WTA Miami Masters hardcourt tournament.

The top-seeded Spaniard and his veteran Australian opponent took to the court two-and-a-half hours late due to long matches that preceded them.

However, Nadal, who received a first-round bye, ripped through the opening set in 27 minutes and eventually dispatched double Grand Slam winner Hewitt in 66 minutes.

“It’s great for me to be back after not playing since 2012. I really enjoy it here,” Nadal said. “There was no better way to start my return than with a win like this.”

World No. 1 Serena Williams and Russian star Maria Sharapova each battled through three sets on Saturday to advance into the fourth round on the women’s side.

Nadal next faces Denis Istomin, who beat Dmitry Tursunov 6-7 (8/10), 6-0, 6-3.

Nadal took his sixth win in a row over Hewitt, improving him to 7-4 in their rivalry overall.

“I have the greatest respect for Lleyton,” Nadal said. “He’s a great example to me and the other players the way he has come back from injuries. He always keeps fighting.”

Hewitt, who collected his 600th career ATP match win on Thursday, said Nadal was simply too much for him to overcome.

“He hit the ball really clean right from the start,” Hewitt said. “I hung in there and tried everything I could, but he was just too good. Even when I pushed him, he got back into the point.”

Nadal next faces Denis Istomin, who beat Dmitry Tursunov 6-7 (8/10), 6-0, 6-3.

Serbian second seed and three-time Miami champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the fourth round when opponent Florian Mayer retired a day before their scheduled match with a groin injury. Djokovic will next play tomorrow.

Defending champion Williams and last year’s runner-up Sharapova struggled mightily to survive, with five-time finalist Sharapova requiring nine match point to book her win.

Sharapova beat Czech Lucie Safarova 6-4, 6-7 (7/5), 6-2 in a battle that took five minutes short of three hours to complete.

Sharapova let out a scream of relief when she finally went through as Safarova’s shot hit the net, Sharapova having missed two chances in the second set to wrap it up early.

“She was just hitting unbelievable shots on the match points,” Sharapova said. “I kept asking myself how many more chances I had. I’m just so happy to go through.”

Sharapova ended her marathon with nearly twice as many unforced errors, 51, as winners, 27, and double-faulted eight times.

Top seed Serena Williams waited out a 45-minute rain third-set interruption before dispatching France’s Caroline Garcia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.