Djokovic made to fight for Q-final berth

Men's top seed digs deep to beat Thiem, as women's fifth seed Halep falters in last eight

MIAMI • World No. 1 Novak Djokovic struggled to play his best, but held firm when pressed to the brink on Tuesday and battled his way into the ATP and WTA Miami Open quarter-finals.

The two-time defending champion outduelled Austrian 14th seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, stretching his Miami win streak to 13 matches to book a last-eight date against Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych.

"Straight-sets win but far from easy. It was a tough match," Djokovic said. "I kept my serves. But I made a lot of double faults and he had me under a lot of pressure."

The five-time Miami winner rescued 13 of 14 break points, four of them in the last game of the first set and four more in a dramatic 14-minute final game before hitting a forehand winner on his fourth match point.

"I had some luck in that last game where he missed a couple of easy forehands to get the break back and get into the match," Djokovic said. "I stayed tough when it was most needed. The important moments I tried to make him play, make him run."

The Serb won his 11th Grand Slam title two months ago at the Australian Open and has also lifted the Doha and Indian Wells trophies this year while Thiem captured titles last month at Acapulco and Buenos Aires.

  • ERRATIC DJOKOVIC

  • 8
    Double faults by Novak Djokovic. "The second serve was not working that well," he said, attributing it to the pressure imposed on him by Dominic Thiem. The Serb also committed 29 unforced errors.

  • 2
    Aces he served, in contrast.


    13 of 14
    Breaks Djokovic was made to save. He said: "Generally I don't get to face that many break points."

The 28-year-old Serb made eight double faults and 29 unforced errors against only two aces and eight winners.

"The second serve was not working that well. That was due to the pressure he was imposing. I just didn't have the rhythm," Djokovic said. "Generally I don't get to face that many break points. I'll try not to get myself in those positions as much."

Berdych outlasted French 10th seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, but has won only two of 24 meetings with Djokovic, having lost their past nine matches since a 2013 Rome quarter-final victory.

In the women's singles, fifth seed Simona Halep was sent packing by Timea Bacsinszky 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarter-finals.

The Romanian appeared well placed for victory when she took the first set.

It was only the second set Bacsinszky had dropped during the tournament, and the 19th-seeded Swiss made sure it would be her last of the day as she prevailed in a match that stretched nearly 2hr 30min.

Watched by a crowd that included Swiss ski champion Lara Gut, Bacsinszky ended the match in style with a cross-court backhand winner.

"I came back from a long road," the 26-year-old, who has battled back from injury, said in a courtside interview.

"For the past year she (Halep) has been an inspiration for me because I believe in hard work and I know she's one of the players who work really hard. To be able to play that well against her and catch the win is really amazing."

Halep's exit left the event with only one of the top 12 women's seeds - second seed Angelique Kerber, the Australian Open winner.

Bacsinszky will meet Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semi-finals after the 15th seed beat compatriot Ekaterina Makarova 6-7 (3-7) 6-4, 6-3.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


ATP MIAMI OPEN

Q-finals: StarHub Ch201, 9am & Friday, 3am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'DJOKOVIC MADE TO FIGHT FOR Q-FINAL BERTH'. Print Edition | Subscribe