Tennis: Top-ranked Djokovic battles into Miami quarters

World No.1 Novak Djokovic celebrating his win over Austrian Dominic Thiem in Florida on March 29.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic celebrating his win over Austrian Dominic Thiem in Florida on March 29. PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (AFP) - World No.1 Novak Djokovic was struggling to play his best, but held firm when pressed to the brink Tuesday and battled into the ATP and WTA Miami Open quarter-finals.

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

"Straight set 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."

Djokovic, a five-time Miami winner overall, 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 opportunity.

The 28-year-old Serbian won his 11th Grand Slam title two months ago at the Australian Open and has also lifted Doha and Indian Wells trophies this year while Thiem captured titles last month at Acapulco and Buenos Aires.

"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.

They are the only top-10 men still playing except for Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori, who meets Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in a later match.

Only one of the top 12 women remains after Romanian fifth seed Simona Halep was ousted 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 by 19th-ranked Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, who advanced to a semi-final against the winner of a later match between Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ekaterina Makarova.

"To beat someone who fights as hard as she does, it's something amazing," Bacsinszky said. "I'm happy with it."

German second seed Angelique Kerber, who beat Serena Williams in the Australian Open final for her first Grand Slam title, plays American Madison Keys on Wednesday for a semi-final spot.

Australian 24th seed Nick Kyrgios, the youngest top-30 ATP player at age 20, reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 victory over Russia's 51st-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov.

Kyrgios, off to a career-best 13-3 start that includes his first ATP title last month at Marseille, next plays Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic, who ripped Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-0, 6-3.

Belgian 15th seed David Goffin beat Argentina's 112th-ranked Horacio Zeballos 7-5, 6-3 and next faces French 18th seed Gilles Simon, who routed compatriot Lucas Pouille 6-0, 6-1.