MIAMI: The new site for the Miami Open suddenly is missing a lot of star power.
Serena Williams withdrew on 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 (7-4), 6-3.
Osaka’s departure matched the earliest ever in the tournament by a top-seeded woman and jeopardised her world number one 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.”
It wasn’t the only shocker of the day, as Spanish veteran David Ferrer rallied to beat world number three Alexander Zverev 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the third round.
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.
Serena’s 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. She didn’t mention any health issues during a news conference after the match, and the WTA had no information regarding when she was hurt.
Serena’s victory on Friday was her first at Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Dolphins’ home and the Miami Open’s new centre court. The tournament moved this year from Key Biscayne, where Serena won eight titles.
Serena 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 number one 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.
Hsieh set up a meeting with Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
World number two Petra Kvitova needed three sets and more than two and a half hours to beat Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a clash of heavy hitters.
The two-time Wimbledon champion will meet Caroline Garcia in the fourth round after the Frenchwoman knocked out 15th seeded German Julia Goerges 6-0, 7-5.
In the late game, unseeded Canadian Bianca Andreescu beat Angelique Kerber for the second time in a week 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, outlasting the German eighth seed in a two hour, nine minute three setter. The 18-year-old Andreescu also beat Kerber in the final of the BNP Paribas Open.
Seventh seed Kiki Bertens also prevailed over Viktoria Kuzmova 3-6, 6-0, 6-1.
Ferrer is set to retire from professional tennis in May but the Spaniard showed he still has the tools to bring down the biggest names in the game after a stunning win over Zverev.
Zverev, runner-up to John Isner here last year, coughed up 12 double faults as he suffered his second straight early exit in succession after a third-round departure at Indian Wells.
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.
Federer next faces 103rd-ranked Serbian Filip Krajinovic, who beat three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5).
Earlier, South Africas Kevin Anderson made a winning return to competition with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over rising Spaniard Jaume Munar.
Two Russian prospects, Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev, had different fates on Saturday.
The 10th seed Khachanov was beaten by Australian Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-3 while his friend Medvedev, the 13th seed, toppled Frances Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 6-1.
Eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (7-4), 6-1.
In other early action, Belgian David Goffin, the 18th seed, defeated Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-1, while Canadian 20th seed Denis Shapovalov came from a set down to beat Britains Dan Evans 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Seeded losers on the men’s side included Diego Schwartzman, Guido Pella, Stan Wawrinka and 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.
Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2019
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