Tennis: Miami Open Begins Without Djokovic & Raducanu

The first round of the Miami Open kicked off on Tuesday without World No 1 Novak Djokovic who withdrew from the competition for ‘personal reasons.’ He told the media that he wanted to balance his professional and schedule after playing at Indian Wells just a couple weeks ago.

Djokovic’s announcement came on Saturday on his social media accounts following his 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 defeat to Luca Nardi on Monday in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open. Nardi is the lowest ranked opponent at number 123 to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam or ATP Masters 1000 level event. The previous lowest-ranked opponent to get past DJokovic was No 122 Kevin Anderson in 2008 in Miami.

Novak Djokovic Miami Open
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Britain’s Emma Raducanu also withdrew from the Miami Open with a lower back injury, according to tournament organizers on Tuesday. This is the latest setback for the 21-year-old who has been suffering from a series of injuries over the past couple of years.

Raducanu spent eight months out with wrist and ankle problems last year but was able to return to action in January. She played well at Indian Wells where she reached the third round but lost to world number two Aryna Sabalenka. 

The 2021 US Open winner was a wildcard entry at the Miami Open and was scheduled to play China’s Wang Xiyu in the first round.

Early Results From Miami Open

Japanese men’s star Kei Nishikori played a match on Thursday afternoon for the first time since last July at the Atlanta Open. After being out for so long he didn’t look to be at his normal graceful self, losing 6-3 6-4 to Sebastian Ofner. 

He will however take solace in the fact that he competed well and was only one break off in each set. Nishikori also had three chances to break his opponent but was unable to convert to get him back on serve. After the match Nisikori was happy with his effort and had mostly good things to say about his return to the court.

The Japanese phenom has struggled with injuries throughout his career, most recently dealing with knee and hip problems. The Atlanta Open was his only ATP-level tournament last year but he also took part in three Challenger tournaments, one of which he won. 

In early women’s singles draw action, Maria Sakkari got back to her winning ways a few days after losing at Indian Wells quarter final.  She was able to easily dismiss China’s Yue Yuan 6-2, 6-2 on cruise into the third round of the Miami Open. She broke her opponent 5 times in the 79-minute clinic.

Sakkari lost to Swaitek 6-4, 6-0 in the March 17 final at Indian Wells, a match she would like to forget in a hurry. She has had a good year up to date after collecting her first WTA Tour title in Austin last month and following that up with a quarter-final run at Indian Wells. 

In other second round women’s action, Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina was able to save a match point and come back from a set down to beat former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.

She trailed 2-5 in the second set and appeared to be heading towards an early exit in the tournament but was able to pull herself together. Facing a match point on her own serve she was able to stay alive with a fearless forehand winner to cut the deficit to 5-4. From there she won 5 games in a row to win the second set.

There was a big momentum shift going into the third set, which Kalinina was able to take advantage of. The 27-year-old turned on the pressure to go ahead 5-3 and then finish the match off 6-4.

Next up for Kalinina is world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka or Paula Badosa. Sabalenka and Badosa are known for being great friends which will make for an interesting matchup. Sabalenka will be the heavy favourite though and will likely face Kalinina in the third round for a tricky matchup.