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Miami diary: Sunday March 28

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Originally published on: 29/03/10 09:13

Terrific tie-breaks
They call it the unofficial ‘fifth Grand Slam’, but while matches may not extend to the usual five sets as in the four major tournaments, there were plenty of tie-breaks to keep the action going on day five of the Sony Ericsson Open. The most nail-biting of all was the first set tie-breaker between Rafael Nadal and David Nalbandian, which swung 8-6 in the Argentine’s favour to keep the first set going for an hour and six minutes. Nadal endured an easier path from there on, ultimately triumphing 6-7(8) 6-2 6-2. Fellow Spaniard and world No.38 Nicolas Almagro also progressed to round four in spite of losing a close second set tie-break against Jeremy Chardy, while No.18 seed Tommy Robredo was edged out on a final set breaker by Benjamin Becker, who secured a 1-6 6-4 7-6(1) victory.

Another long ‘un on Stadium Court
The action on Stadium Court once again stretched the day session, and even though Kim Clijsters took out Shahar Peer at breakneck speed (losing just a solitary game), the Nadal and Nalbandian match lasted two hours and 25 minutes, before Caroline Wozniacki – who ‘didn’t feel 100% today’ and had some ‘problems with her head and throat’ – took a minute less to overcome Maria Kirilenko. That meant that Andy Roddick and Sergiy Stakhovsky didn’t’ take to court until 6.35pm, with Jelena Jankovic and Elena Vesnina waiting to start the night session. Roddick gave organisers a helping hand, despatching the Ukrainian 6-2 6-1 in an hour to allow the Indian Wells champ on court for a straight sets win over the 23-year-old Russian.

Williams goes scouting
Richard Williams was spotted sitting at the top of the stand on Grandstand Court, (not-so) covertly watching Victoria Azarenka win her ninth straight match in Miami with a 6-4 6-2 win over Lucie Safarova. The Belarusian’s victory wasn’t quite as much of a breeze as the scoreline suggested, but the defending champ progresses for a fourth round clash against Kim Clisjters– a tasty prospect, given that their only previous encounter – in Toronto last year – was a see-saw three-setter that went in favour of the US Open champ.

Fashion (non) sense
In Crandon Park’s generously proportioned FILA store, not only can you get your hands on one of the red and blue dresses as worn by the ball girls at the Sony Ericsson Open, but you can nab it for a ‘snip’ at US$70. Youch. Hefty fee aside, does anyone really want to dress like a ball girl?

Brazilian brilliance
Twenty-two-year-old southpaw Thomaz Bellucci slayed Olivier Rochus (Novak Djokovic’s conquerer) in straight sets to book a fourth round meet with Nicolas Almagro. The two-time ATP Tour title champ is looking pretty cool on court; perhaps Brazil has produced a follow-up player capable of capturing our hearts like the ever-popular Gustavo Kuerten, who will be in action alongside Fernando Gonzalez on Saturday to support the ‘Champions for Chile’ event.

Jada Clijsters (Lynch)
Mum Kim was cheered along on Stadium Court today by two year-old daughter Jada, who had the world cooing as she toddled round the US Open trophy back in September. “She knows I play tennis,” said Clijsters – who along with Sybille Bammer is one of only two mothers in the top 100 on the WTA tour.  “Like when I leave the hotel or when I leave home, she [Jada] knows I’m off going to play tennis with ‘Wim’, as she calls my coach. Like ‘Mommy and Wim are playing tennis’.” Endearing stuff.

Rafa pleased to be through
Rafael Nadal served up a comment that might console Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic – who were both dumped out in their opening matches – after admitting his surprise that the top seeds so often seem to progress deep into the Miami tournament. “That’s very difficult to do it all the time, seems when one time it happens everyone is surprised,” reasoned the Spaniard in reference to the first round exits of last year’s finalists. “But you don’t know how tough [it] is [to] be mentally ready all the time and playing well enough all the time,” he added. And after knuckling down for his tough victory over Nalbandian, Nadal has no plans to fall victim to a premature exit in Miami.  “For me, every match is important. I try to do my best every tournament, in every moment when I am on court.”

That, in a nutshell, is the reason why crowds love him.

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